Who has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wave Image

If somebody you love has lost their life due to the negligent actions of another person, business, or entity, you may be able to initiate A wrongful death claim. In some states around the country, a personal representative or executor of the deceased individual’s estate is the one who has to file the wrongful death claim in civil court. However, in California, the responsibility for filing the claim falls to surviving family members.

Exactly Who Gets to File the Claim?

When we examine California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, we can see that only specific family members or their personal representatives are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit in court. State law says that the following may file these claims:

  • A surviving spouse
  • Surviving domestic partners
  • Children of the deceased
  • Grandchildren of the deceased, but only if the deceased posthumous children are also deceased
  • Anyone who would be entitled to the deceased’s property under California intestate succession laws

In addition to the individuals listed above, there are others who may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit if they can show that they were financially dependent on the deceased. This can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • A putative spouse, which is an individual who had a good faith but mistaken reason to believe they were in a lawful marriage with the deceased
  • Children of a putative spouse
  • Stepchildren of the deceased if they were financially dependent on the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased
  • Legal guardians of the deceased, if the parents are deceased

Any personal representative of these specific individuals may also file the claim on behalf of the person they represent.

Do You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney

Wrongful death claims in California can be incredibly complex, particularly if a survival action is also filed along with the wrongful death claim in civil court. These claims must be thoroughly investigated, and an attorney can help conduct the full investigation while also handling all communication with other parties involved. The role of an attorney is multifaceted when it comes to wrongful death claims, and your lawyer will be your advocate moving forward.

There may be various damages if a wrongful death claim is successful. Some of these damages include:

  • Any financial support the deceased would have contributed to their family had they lived
  • The loss of any benefits or gifts the family members could have expected to receive from the deceased throughout their lifetime
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The value of any household services the deceased would have provided
  • Compensation for the loss of love, comfort, protection, companionship, and care the deceased provided
  • Loss of consortium damages, which is the loss of enjoyment of intimacy for a spouse or partner

There is no set amount of compensation paid for successful wrongful death claims in California. Several factors can influence the total value of a settlement or jury verdict, and we encourage you to work with your attorney to gain an understanding of how much you can expect if your claim is successful.

Generally, the time frame for filing a wrongful death claim in civil court is two years in California. Failing to file a lawsuit against the allegedly negligent party within this time frame will likely mean the case gets dismissed. Contact our law firm for additional help with your claim.