What Family Members Are Allowed to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful Death / June 20, 2017

When someone passes away in California in a way that could have been preventable or otherwise involves some form of negligence, it may be possible to hold the liable party accountable through a wrongful death claim. These are considered civil lawsuits that usually must be brought to court for resolution, as it is unlikely that the party responsible for the grave mistake wants to admit their liability. If the claim is successful, the monetary damages collected are usually quite large, covering funeral expenses, medical bills, and sometimes lost income for years to come.

But the question is: who does it go to? Who has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Next of Kin Get Priority in Wrongful Death Claims

In California State law, just certain people are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Typically, only the deceased’s surviving spouse or children may make a claim against the negligent party. In situations where there is no person in their direct line of descent, anyone who would be entitled to the property through a will or trust can move to file a wrongful death claim. People in this example would include:

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Close relatives

Financial Dependents May Also Make a Claim

In order to make certain that no one is left without financial stability after someone’s untimely death, California State law also allows those who are financially dependent on the deceased to make a wrongful death claim. This group would typically include stepchildren, parents when a surviving spouse or child exists, and even putative spouses and children. A putative spouse is someone who was unofficially married to the decedent and relied on them as if they were married.

It should be noted that a wrongful death claim is its own independent lawsuit. If your loved one suffered a wrongful death due to a criminal act, you may seek compensation in a claim entirely separate from any criminal process or trial. There is also a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims; if you wait just a day beyond that, you will not have any legal right to file.

Do you have more questions about wrongful death cases in California? Do you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit but still aren’t sure if you can? Contact a Los Angeles wrongful death attorney from Mansell Mansell Ayala + Villaneda today for the answers and legal representation you need.

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