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December 16, 2023

How Long Does it Take to Settle Wrongful Death Claims in California?

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

Short answer: Wrongful death claims can take anywhere from a few months to four years to settle in California. It all depends on how complex your case is and if it has to go to trial.

Below we’ll talk about common factors that can slow down or speed up your claim and what you can do if you’ve already filed.

Common Amounts of Time it Takes to Settle Wrongful Death Claims

Complexity of Case Average Time to Settle
Minor Approximately: 3 – 9 months
Moderate Approximately: 9 – 18 months
Severe Approximately: 18 – 48 months

What Does The Typical Wrongful Death Claim Timeline Look Like?

The timeline for a wrongful death claim can vary based on several factors, and each case is unique. However, a general outline of a typical wrongful death claim timeline might include:

Filing the Claim

Initiation of the claim by the surviving family members or legal representatives.


Gathering evidence, conducting investigations, and collecting relevant documentation to build a strong case.

Insurance Negotiations

Communication and negotiation with insurance companies, which can take weeks or months to reach a settlement.

Filing a Lawsuit (if necessary)

If an agreement is not reached through negotiations, filing a lawsuit, which can extend the timeline significantly.

Discovery Process

Exchange of information and evidence between both parties in the legal proceedings.

Mediation or Settlement Discussions

Attempting alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, to reach a settlement without going to trial.

Trial Preparation

If a settlement is not achieved, preparing for a trial, which involves gathering witnesses, experts, and legal arguments.

Trial (if necessary)

The actual trial process, which can take weeks or months, depending on court availability and the complexity of the case.

Judgment and Appeals (if necessary)

If the trial results in a judgment, there may be an additional period for any potential appeals.

It’s important to note that each stage’s duration can vary based on factors like the complexity of the case, the cooperation of involved parties, and court availability.

Factors That Can Cause Wrongful Death Claims to Take Longer

Legal Complexities

Wrongful death claims in California may be prolonged due to intricate legal processes, including investigations, evidence gathering, and navigating complex statutes.

Insurance Negotiations

Delays can arise from negotiations with insurance companies, as parties involved may take time to reach agreements on settlements and compensation.

Probate Proceedings

The need for probate court approval, common in wrongful death cases, can introduce additional steps and time-consuming procedures, extending the overall duration.

Expert Testimonies

The involvement of expert witnesses, such as medical professionals or accident reconstruction specialists, may elongate the process, as coordinating their schedules and obtaining their testimonies can be time-intensive.

Liability Disputes

Disputes over liability among multiple parties can result in prolonged legal battles, contributing to delays in reaching a resolution for wrongful death claims.

Factors That Can Make Your Wrongful Death Claim Move Faster

Clear Documentation

Providing thorough and organized documentation, including evidence, medical records, and incident details, can expedite the claim process by facilitating a quicker understanding of the case.

Prompt Reporting

Reporting the wrongful death promptly to relevant authorities and insurance companies accelerates the initiation of investigations and ensures timely collection of crucial information.

Cooperation and Communication

Open communication and cooperation between all involved parties, including claimants, legal representatives, and insurance adjusters, can streamline the process and prevent unnecessary delays.

Settlement Willingness

A willingness from both parties to negotiate and reach a fair wrongful death settlement can significantly expedite the claim process, avoiding the need for lengthy court proceedings.

Legal Expertise

Engaging experienced legal professionals who are well-versed in California’s wrongful death laws can ensure a smoother and more efficient handling of the claim, minimizing delays.

Why Insurance Companies May Try to Slow Down the Claim Process

Investigation Delays

Insurance companies may intentionally prolong the claims process to conduct thorough investigations, aiming to minimize their financial liability and ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of the circumstances.

Strategic Negotiation

By slowing down the process, insurers may seek to pressure claimants into accepting lower settlements, leveraging time as a negotiating tactic to achieve more favorable terms.

Reducing Payouts

Delaying settlements allows insurers to hold onto funds longer, potentially earning interest and reducing the overall payout amount when a settlement is finally reached.

Legal Strategy

Insurance companies may use time to their advantage in legal proceedings, hoping to wear down claimants or create obstacles that make it more challenging for them to pursue a successful claim.

Assessing Liability

Insurers may take time to assess and contest liability, especially in cases involving complex circumstances, disputing claims in an effort to minimize their responsibility for the wrongful death.

How an Attorney Could Speed Up Your Claim

Legal Expertise

An attorney with experience in wrongful death claims can navigate the legal complexities efficiently, ensuring that all required documentation and legal procedures are handled promptly.

Effective Communication

Attorneys can engage in clear and timely communication with insurance companies, other involved parties, and relevant authorities, expediting the exchange of information and negotiations.

Investigative Resources

Lawyers have access to investigative resources that can help gather evidence swiftly, strengthening the case and avoiding unnecessary delays in the claims process.

Negotiation Skills

Experienced attorneys can skillfully negotiate with insurance companies, pushing for fair and expedited settlements while protecting the interests of the claimant.

Court Efficiency

If legal action becomes necessary, an attorney can navigate the court system efficiently, filing necessary documents, meeting deadlines, and ensuring the case progresses without unnecessary delays.

Can I Hire an Attorney if I Already Filed a Claim Myself?

Yes, you can hire an attorney even if you’ve initiated the wrongful death claim yourself. An attorney can join the process at any stage to provide legal expertise, streamline the proceedings, and enhance your chances of a favorable outcome.

Their assistance becomes particularly valuable if you encounter complexities, negotiations stall, or you decide that professional legal representation is necessary to navigate the intricacies of your case.

Get Connected with a Wrongful Death Attorney

If you have questions about an ongoing wrongful death claim, or one you’re considering filing, contact LawLinq today. We work with some of the best wrongful death attorneys in the state who are ready to help any time. All consultations are free of charge.

About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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