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What is a wrongful death claim?

Wrongful death occurs when the death of an individual is due to the negligence of another. The law covering wrongful death claims is based on a law that was first passed in California in 1872. Under that law, only the heirs may sue for their loss as a result of the death of their relative and all heirs must share in such a claim. The law defines an heir very specifically, such that a husband or wife can sue for the death of their spouse, but only if they were married at the time of death. If a minor child dies, then both parents are considered as heir, even if they are not married. If an adult who has a child dies, then the child is the heir, even if the adult has parents. As a result of these specific rules, it is important that anyone who is considering pursuing a wrongful death claim has an experienced attorney who understand these rules. Also, it is important to have an attorney who has experience with medical malpractice-related wrongful death because, in California, all heirs in a wrongful death claim based on medical malpractice must share in the maximum of $250,000 recovery for non-economic damages.