Losing a loved one is traumatic, and when the loss is sudden and a result of an auto accident, it is particularly devastating for the surviving family.


If a loved one died in a car accident, you may be wondering about your legal options. In Santa Ana, understanding the process of filing a wrongful death claim is critical. This guide is designed to walk surviving family members through the process of pursuing justice for a loved one amidst the emotional and legal challenges.



What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

loved one died in a car accident

In the state of California, which naturally covers Santa Ana, Orange County, a wrongful death claim arises when someone dies due to the legal fault of another person. These deaths can be the result of negligence, a car accident, or intentional actions. The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to provide compensation for family members and to hold the responsible party accountable.


The difference between filing a claim and lawsuit after a fatal car accident is important to understand. A claim is typically filed with an insurance company, while a lawsuit is filed in court. To file a wrongful death lawsuit, you must have legal standing as a surviving family member. This includes spouses, children, parents, and other dependents.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

The right to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit is reserved for the surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children of the deceased. If none of these parties exist, then other dependent relatives may be able to file and seek damages.


The distinction between domestic partner and spouse is of particular legal significance, and eligibility to pursue a wrongful death claim can vary based on the situation.

Types of Compensation Available to Wrongful Death Beneficiaries

Per California law, the compensation available through a wrongful death car accident claim can include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover financial losses, such as funeral expenses, the deceased’s medical bills, and loss of future earnings. Non-economic damages address the emotional suffering of family members, including loss of companionship and pain and suffering.

Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when there is a sudden impact that causes your head to jerk forward and backward. This motion can strain muscles and ligaments in your neck, causing pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.


In car accidents, whiplash commonly occurs when a vehicle is hit from behind. The force of the rear collision causes the occupants’ heads to snap back and then forward again.


In both concussion and whiplash injury cases, the person involved in the accident may not immediately feel the effects of the neck and head injuries. Symptoms can take hours or even days to appear, making it difficult to diagnose and treat.

file a wrongful death claim

The first step in the legal process if a loved one died in a car accident is filing the wrongful death claim. This involves submitting a complaint that details the accident, the negligent actions of the responsible party, and the losses suffered by the family. The claim must be filed with the appropriate court within a specified time, known as the statute of limitations.

Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Death

The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in Santa Ana is generally two years from the date the deceased person passed away. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as if the responsible party is a government entity. It is vital to be aware of these exceptions and to file within the stipulated time frame, as failure to do so can result in the loss of the right to seek compensation.

Evidence and Discovery

During the legal process, evidence is collected to support the claim. This can include police reports, witness statements, and expert testimony. The discovery phase allows for the exchange of evidence between the parties involved in the lawsuit. Criminal charges are not necessary for a wrongful death claim, as the burden of proof is lower in civil cases, but the at-fault driver may still face criminal charges separately.

Negotiation and Settlement

Many wrongful death car accident claims are settled out of court through negotiation between the attorneys representing the family and the defendant. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, the case proceeds to trial, where a judge or jury will decide the outcome.

Role of a Wrongful Death Attorney in a Fatal Car Crash

Going through the legal process of a wrongful death claim in Santa Ana is complex. Consultation with an experienced attorney is essential for providing guidance, protecting your rights, and ensuring that you receive the compensation you are entitled to.

How an Attorney Can Help in a Wrongful Death Case

A personal injury attorney can assist you in several ways, including gathering essential evidence, interacting with insurance companies, and representing you in court. Their expertise can significantly impact the outcome of your claim, allowing you to focus on healing and your family during this difficult time.

Loved One Died in a Car Accident:
Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make a wrongful death claim if the deceased was partly at fault in the accident?

Yes, in California, you can file a wrongful death car accident claim even if the deceased was partially at fault. The percentage of liability the deceased is found to have will reduce the compensation by that percentage.

Does a criminal conviction affect a wrongful death claim?

A criminal conviction for the responsible party can be a powerful piece of evidence in a wrongful death case. However, it is not necessary to have a criminal conviction to succeed in a wrongful death claim.

How long does a wrongful death case take in Santa Ana?

The duration of a wrongful death car accident case in Santa Ana can vary. Simple cases may take a year or more, while complicated cases involving extensive litigation or appeals may take several years to resolve.

Where does the compensation come from in a wrongful death case?

The payout in a wrongful death case typically comes from the responsible party’s insurance company. If there is no insurance or the policy limits are insufficient, it may be possible to pursue compensation from the individual’s personal assets.

File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit or Claim after a Fatal Car Accident. Call RTM Law for a Free Consultation.
No Fees Until We Win.

Loved one died in a car accident? Please know that you are not alone.


Seeking legal support from attorneys specialized in wrongful death claims can provide guidance and ensure your family’s rights are protected. While managing the complex web of legal processes and emotional recovery, remember to take care of yourself and your family.


If you need further assistance or information on how to proceed with a claim for wrongful death in California, don’t hesitate to contact RTM Law Firm. Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers in Santa Ana and across the state is here to support you through this time.


Remember, it’s not just about seeking justice legally; it’s also about obtaining closure for your family and taking the necessary steps towards emotional healing.


Call our wrongful death car accident lawyers at (949) 2874342.




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