Losing a loved one through suspicious, wrongful or criminal means is a terrible tragedy. Your family may already feel overwhelmed with grief and turmoil over the loss without the added pressure of trying to pay for a funeral. The average cost of a funeral is $8,000 to $10,000. If you believe someone else negligently or intentionally caused the death of your loved one, that party may owe your family compensation for the loss – including the costs of related expenses such as a funeral or memorial service. A wrongful death attorney may be able to help your family seek fair compensation to pay for a funeral.
How to Recover Funeral Expenses
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit a family may bring after a loved one dies because of the negligence or wrongful act of another person. A wrongful death claim demands financial restitution from the person or entity responsible for causing the fatality. If a driver was driving drunk and caused a fatal car accident, for example, that driver could be financially responsible for surviving family members’ related expenses.
In California, the parties that can bring a wrongful death claim are the deceased person’s surviving spouse, domestic partner or children. If these parties do not exist, anyone whom intestate succession entitles to the decedent’s property may bring the claim. This could include the deceased person’s parents or siblings. If they can show they were financially dependent on the deceased person at the time of death, a putative spouse, putative children and stepchildren may also file for wrongful death.
If you believe you have grounds to file a wrongful death claim, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. You have two years from the date of your loved one’s passing to file your lawsuit before you will miss the statute of limitations and most likely give up the right to demand any compensation for a funeral. A wrongful death lawyer can help you with the paperwork of filing a claim, including your initial demand letter that will list the funeral and burial expenses your family wishes to obtain from the at-fault party.
What Funeral Expenses Can You List in Your Demand Letter?
Most wrongful death cases give plaintiffs the right to demand compensation for the reasonable costs of funeral and burial services. The keyword is reasonable; if an insurance company, judge or jury does not find the plaintiff’s demands reasonable (e.g. an $8,000 catering bill), it could deny the compensation request or approve only part of the plaintiff’s demands. An attorney can help your family calculate a reasonable amount to request during your wrongful death claim. However, the types of expenses recoverable generally remain the same from case to case.
- Basic funeral service fees
- Price of a memorial service
- Memorial packages
- Funeral home and hearse rental
- Casket or cremation casket
- Embalming and preparation
- Cremation fees
Your lawyer may also be able to argue for the recovery of costs such as publishing an obituary in the local paper, paying for a burial plot, funeral catering and ordering a death certificate. While the courts typically do not include these expenses as general funeral costs, your attorney could negotiate them as part of a settlement or argue your right to obtain them during a wrongful death trial. Working with a lawyer who has experience handling wrongful death claims in California can improve your odds of securing full compensation for the funeral and resting place of your loved one.
Other Recoverable Damages
Funeral and burial costs are not the only losses your family can claim during a wrongful death lawsuit in California. Your family may also be able to demand compensation for damages such as medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, lost earnings and lost future benefits relating to the death of your loved one. Speak to an attorney for more information about the value of your wrongful death case and how to bring a claim for funeral expenses.