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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

Losing a loved one can be incredibly difficult. This is especially true if your loved one lost their life due to the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of somebody else. When this happens, family members are often able to recover compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. However, these cases can become complicated, and state law limits who is allowed to come forward and file the wrongful death claim. Here, we want to discuss which parties are allowed to file wrongful death lawsuits in California.

Parties That Can File Wrongful Death Claims

When we turn to California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, the state law that governs wrongful death lawsuits, we can see that the following parties are able to file these claims.

Spouse of the Deceased

The surviving spouse of the deceased person is going to have the right to file a wrongful death claim in California. This includes both opposite-sex and same-sex couples who are married. This right also falls to domestic partners and “putative” spouses. A putative spouse is a person who believes they were in a valid marriage, even though the marriage was void or voidable.

Children of the Deceased

Children of the deceased may also be able to file a claim of wrongful death in California if there is no surviving spouse. This includes stepchildren of the deceased who can prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased at the time of their death. In addition, a minor who lived with the deceased for at least 180 days before the death and relied on the deceased for 50% or more of their financial support may also be able to file a claim.

Parents of the Deceased

Parents of minor children or parents of adult children with no other descendants have the right to file a wrongful death claim in California.

Other Heirs

If there is no surviving spouse, children, or parents of the deceased, then other family members and heirs may have the right to file a wrongful death claim in California. This can include grandchildren of the deceased and any other party that would be entitled to the deceased’s property under California intestate succession laws.

How Do Wrongful Death Claims Arise in California?

Wrongful death claims arise in numerous ways in California. Some of the most common situations that constitute wrongful death include careless, negligent, or intentional actions of other parties. Claims can arise out of:

  • Vehicle accidents
  • Pedestrian or bicycle accidents
  • Commercial truck accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Defective product cases
  • Workplace accidents
  • Animal attacks/dog bites
  • Assault and battery or other types of crime
  • Medical malpractice cases

This is certainly not an all-inclusive list of the ways that wrongful death cases arise in California. If you have lost a loved one and you believe their death was caused by the actions of another entity or individual, speak with a skilled Sacramento wrongful death attorney for a free consultation of your case as soon as possible.