Am I Eligible for Damages from a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?


When someone close to you passes away, emotions run high, and the abundance of arrangements to be made can feel overwhelming. If the death was the result of someone else’s negligence or reckless actions, the need for justice and accountability adds yet another burden to an already trying time. It is important to seek out support wherever you can find it. If you believe you’re eligible for damages as the result of a wrongful death, your best bet is to consult a personal injury lawyer.  But how do you know if the death of your loved one qualifies? Start with the basics below to determine whether or not you should pursue a wrongful death lawsuit:

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

In California, those who may seek damages as a result of wrongful death are generally those who would be likely to inherit from the deceased person or the deceased’s estate representative. Spouses, registered domestic partners, parents who are dependent on their child, stepchildren, siblings, and any minor who lived with the deceased for over 180 days before the death could potentially file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Actions constituting wrongful death

California law describes wrongful death as a demise that results from the “wrongful intent act or neglect of another.” Below are the causes of death that could be considered wrongful:

Negligent driving

Negligent actions include careless driving, speeding, running a red light or stop sign, drunk driving, and using a cell phone while driving.


Medical malpractice can lead to a wrongful death when a physician fails to diagnose a condition in a timely manner, a hospital administers the incorrect medicine, a surgeon makes a fatal error, or an unsafe combination of medicine has been prescribed.

Exposure to toxic substances

Toxic chemicals and substances that have been present in a home or workplace and led to disease and death could warrant a wrongful death lawsuit.

Unsafe premises

Commercial and residential buildings must be maintained properly to ensure that visitors are safe. Faulty wiring that leads to electrocution and falls from unsafe stairways or balconies without adequate handrails can all cause wrongful death. These can take place at any home, store, or office.

Intentional actions

Manslaughter, murder, and reckless actions that lead to death are all subject to wrongful death lawsuits. Murder and manslaughter wrongful death lawsuits are typically only filed against wealthy defendants since they are not covered by insurance.

Workplace deaths

Although workplace deaths are generally covered by workers’ compensation, there are occasions when a wrongful death claim is appropriate. For example, a non-employer manufacturer may be found partially responsible for a workplace fatality. In this case, the manufacturer would have to provide compensation in addition to the portion of losses covered by workers’ compensation.


In California, suicide may be considered a wrongful death if someone responsible for the care of the deceased, such as a counselor or psychologist, failed to notice the warning signs of a possible suicide attempt. Additionally, if the person who committed suicide had been the subject of bullying or intense ridicule that ultimately led to the act, the perpetrators may be held liable.

Do you think you might be eligible for damages from a wrongful death lawsuit?

Receiving damages from a wrongful death lawsuit will not bring your loved one back but it will go a long way in helping you get your life back together. If you still have questions about whether the death of your loved one qualifies as wrongful death, please give us a call. We’re happy to answer your questions, and should you decide to pursue the claim, our experienced attorneys can help get you the results you seek and the justice you deserve.