One of the most painful experiences we will ever face in our lives is the death of a loved one. When a loved one is killed because of the wrongful conduct of another, it can be even more painful. We understand that it’s important to have compassionate attorneys and counselors on your side during these painful times. While money can never make up for the loss of a loved one, people may understandably feel compelled to seek justice from the responsible wrongdoers.

Recovering financial damages can also help you take care of funeral costs, cover medical bills, and replace lost income. Damages for loss of companionship and emotional pain may also provide some comfort after the loss of someone you love.


Recoverable damages in a wrongful death action include:

  • The financial support the decedent would have contributed to the family during his or her life expectancy
  • The loss of gifts or benefits the plaintiff would have expected to receive from the decedent
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The value of household services the decedent would have provided
  • The loss of the decedent's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support
  • The loss of decedent's training and guidance

(Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 3921)


There are two distinct types of claims under California resulting from the death of a person as a result of someone else’s negligent conduct: (1) Survival Actions; and (2) Wrongful Death Actions.

Wrongful Death

A wrongful death lawsuit is brought under California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60. Under this section, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed by the personal representative of the deceased's estate, or by the decedent's surviving spouse, children or other dependent family members.

Survival Action

A survival action is brought under California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.30. A survival cause of action can be brought by the estate's personal representative or by the decedent's successor-in-interest. A survival cause of action can only be brought for the decedent’s damages and injuries incurred before he or she died and can only be brought if the decedent did not die immediately following his or her injuries.

How Long Does a Family Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Do not delay in contacting a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney if you intend to make a claim related to the death of a loved one: The time limit for presenting claims for wrongful death can be as short as six months.

Statute of Limitations in California Wrongful Death Claims

The following three time deadlines to settle or take certain legal action (statute of limitations) govern time limits for presenting wrongful death claims in California:

  • Typically, the time limit for filing a wrongful death claim is within two years of the injury or death. (Cal. Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1).
  • If the death or injury was the result of the negligence of a health care provider (medical malpractice), the time limit is one year after the plaintiff discovers or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered the injury-whichever occurs first, and no more than three years from date of injury. (Cal. Code of Civil Procedure § 340.5).
  • If the injury or death was the result of the wrongdoing of a government or governmental entity, such as an accident ton BART or MUNI or a medical malpractice error at a county or state hospital, like San Francisco General Hospital, then a government claim must ordinarily be filed with the proper entity within six months of the injury (Cal. Govt. Code § 945.6).

There are many technical rules and procedures involved in wrongful death claims, and you should consult with a qualified California wrongful death attorney about your specific situation as soon as possible.

The caring lawyers at Wakeford Law Firm will do everything we can to shoulder all legal responsibilities so that you can focus on recovering from your grief and spending time with your family. To see how we can help you through this trying time, call us today.


Call the attorneys at Wakeford Gelini today at 415-578-3510 for a free, no-obligation consultation. Alternately, you may also submit the simple form using the following link:

The personal injury lawyers at Wakeford Gelini have offices in San Francisco, California and Marin County, California. We handle cases in all of the San Francisco Bay Area counties including: San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, San Joaquin and throughout Northern California.