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What Is The One Action Rule For Wrongful Death in California

Wrongful death claims allow surviving spouses, registered domestic partners, and certain family members, to recover compensation when a loved one is killed because of someone’s negligent or intentionally malicious acts. Your wrongful death claim could entitle you to receive monetary compensation for losses your deceased loved one would have enjoyed had they not lost their life. 

The eligible family members of many wrongful death victims often wonder if they’ll need to pursue individual wrongful death claims to recover what’s entitled to them by law. According to California’s one-action rule, those liable for the wrongful death cannot be sued more than once by multiple people. 

If you have lost a spouse, family member, or registered domestic partner, speak with a lawyer who focuses on wrongful death because they can answer all your wrongful death questions and help all eligible family members understand what they may be entitled to under California law. 

The One Action Rule

The ‘one action’ rule is a California legal regulation that protects wrongful death defendants from being sued multiple times by different members of the deceased’s family. This statute implies that rather than filing multiple lawsuits, the potential claimants must file one joint action in court.

The ‘One Action’ Rule in Practice

Whenever a family member files a wrongful death lawsuit, they must include all known possible heirs, according to CA law. Once the claim has been filed, only one judgment will be awarded against the at-fault party. The final judgment will be granted to those included in the claim. If the family is unable to agree on how it will be shared, they can go back to court for a judge to decide. 

Who is Responsible for Including Potential Heirs in Wrongful Death Claims?

The individual filing the claim is responsible for including all potential heirs.  If they fail to include someone, the excluded individual can pursue compensation by going after the plaintiff for their share. The personal representative of the estate is not held responsible because they are already in pursuit of claims on the surviving relatives’ behalf. 

One Action Rule Exemptions

A wrongful death lawsuit can be combined with a lawsuit called a survival action. A survival action is a lawsuit filed by someone else like the estate representative on behalf of those who have wrongfully died.

If it’s unclear whether family members, who were not included in an out-of-court settlement, could potentially file a lawsuit to recover wrongful death general damages and you’re unsure what you and your family are entitled to, then wrongful death attorneys can help. 

Wrongful Death General Damages

Although financial compensation can never replace a lost loved one, California law states that certain surviving relatives have the right to pursue compensation for general damages, which includes all economic and non-economic losses.  

The one action rule was designed to prevent a defendant from paying these damages multiple times to different claimants. Once the claim gets resolved in settlement or court, it’s up to the family to decide how to divide the awarded compensation.

Challenges to the One Action Rule

The one action rule can make wrongful death cases more difficult to settle because it requires getting multiple parties to collaborate while dealing with the loss of a loved one. 

Some California appeals courts have ruled that the one-action rule can be circumvented under certain legal circumstances. Although these challenges haven’t been allowed to set legal precedents, essentially, the one action ruling will come down to the facts of your claim and the skill of your wrongful death attorney. 

Wrongful Death Claim Counsel

The one action rule can be one of many potential pitfalls in navigating a wrongful death claim. However, pursuing these claims helps provide the necessary compensation and closure families need. 

When you work with a seasoned wrongful death law firm, you benefit from their skills, knowledge, relationships, and representation. California wrongful death lawyers can use all of their knowledge of the one action rule and personal injury claims to advocate on your behalf. 

An Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Support You

When surviving members seek experienced attorneys to represent their personal injury cases, they can help the family members obtain the maximum compensation for their claim, calculate their potential damages, and handle all of the legal hurdles while they grieve the loss of a loved one. That’s why it can be crucial to let them guide you throughout the entire legal process and advise you of your rights regarding the one action rule and wrongful death legal claims. 

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