It is crucial for families who are seeking justice after the loss of a loved one to understand the timeline of a wrongful death lawsuit in California. One of the questions that might cross your mind as you start your journey is, “How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take in California?” The answer is it varies from case to case. There are certain factors that can impact the duration and should be taken into consideration so that you can have a better understanding of the process.

California Wrongful Death Lawsuit Process

The process of pursuing a wrongful death claim in California can be difficult and take time, especially if you are attempting to handle everything without the assistance of a skilled Long Beach wrongful death lawyer. The process typically follows these important steps:

  1. Consult with a lawyer: First, you will want to discuss your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer to be sure you have a valid claim. This also gives you a great opportunity to ask any questions you might have about your case.
  2. Investigation: Your lawyer can handle investigating the incident that led to the death. This might involve collecting physical evidence, speaking to witnesses, reading police reports, and gathering any other proof that could help your case.
  3. File a wrongful death claim: The next step would be filing a claim for wrongful death in the appropriate civil court. Typically, the defendant in the case receives a copy of the complaint and has a few weeks to respond.
  4. Discovery process: During the discovery process, both sides will swap evidence and information so that there are no surprises if the case goes to trial.
  5. Settlement negotiations: In order to keep the case from going to trial, both parties may try to agree on a settlement to resolve the case. Negotiations can happen early in a case or later on with more complex cases.
  6. Preparation for a trial: If the negotiation between parties fails, the case will likely head to trial. Your lawyer will prepare for this by coming up with a good legal strategy, organizing evidence, and making sure there are expert witnesses who can testify.
  7. Trial: At a trial, a decision will be made by a judge or jury whether or not the defendant is liable for the wrongful death of your loved one and potentially award damages. If you do not agree with the final decision, you may be able to file an appeal. However, this is a decision you should discuss carefully with your lawyer as it can take more time and cost you more in terms of legal fees.

It is vital to work with an experienced lawyer to guide you through every step and protect your rights during this process.

Factors That Can Influence the Duration of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Predicting the exact duration of a wrongful death case can be difficult due to several factors that may affect the length of the legal process. Since each case is different, there can be varying timelines for resolution. Some of the factors that influence the timeline include:

Case complexity – The more complex cases often take more time to resolve than the simpler ones. They might involve an extensive amount of evidence, multiple liable parties, or complicated legal issues.

Cooperation – It is important for both sides to fully cooperate, especially when it comes to settlement negotiations. If a fair settlement agreement can be reached early on in the process, the case can be resolved, and it can save everyone a lot of time.

Discovery process – The discovery period is one of the steps in the claims process that can take a significant amount of time to complete. The length of this phase depends on how complex the case is and how well both parties cooperate.

Appeals – If you or the defendant decide to file an appeal after the trial is done, this will prolong the legal process.


Q. What Is the Cap on Wrongful Death Damages in California?

A. In California, there is no cap on economic or noneconomic damages for wrongful death in most cases. This means that the family of the deceased can potentially recover the full extent of the emotional and financial damages they suffered due to the death. However, when it comes to medical malpractice cases, there is a cap on noneconomic damages for wrongful death, but families can still recover a significant amount of financial compensation.

Q. How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Calculated?

A. Wrongful death settlements are calculated by assessing the tangible financial losses and the intangible emotional impact suffered by the family or dependents of the deceased. Various aspects are taken into account when determining a settlement amount, including but not limited to the cost of a funeral, medical costs, loss of financial support, and the relationship between the deceased and the surviving family members.

Q. Can You Get Pain and Suffering for Wrongful Death in California?

A. Yes, you can get pain and suffering for wrongful death in California by filing a wrongful death claim. This claim could focus on the emotional and psychological damage you experienced because of the loss of your loved one. Through a survival cause of action, on the other hand, you can potentially pursue financial compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced before they died.

Q. Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

A. In a wrongful death lawsuit in California, the money is usually distributed in a specific order: spouse or domestic partner, children, grandchildren, stepchildren, parents, and legal guardians. It is important to mention that the distribution process can be influenced by factors such as the nature of the relationship between the family member and the deceased victim.

Consult With an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

Dealing with the difficult process of a wrongful death lawsuit while grieving a loved one can be completely overwhelming. An experienced attorney at McLachlan Law, APC can ensure every aspect of the legal process is handled properly while providing you with the support and guidance you need. Contact our team today for legal assistance with your wrongful death case.