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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

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Losing a loved one due to the careless or negligent actions of another person, company, or entity, is incredibly difficult. However, certain people are entitled to file wrongful death lawsuits in California to recover damages for the loss of their loved one. State law limits who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Anyone not qualified to bring a claim under California wrongful death statutes will likely not be able to file a claim in court to recover damages.

What Do the Wrongful Death Laws in California Say?

According to the California Code of Civil Procedure, section 377.60, the following groups of people are allowed to make a wrongful death claim after losing a loved one:

  • The surviving spouse (if a person was married at the time of their death).
  • A surviving domestic partner.
  • Children of the deceased.
  • If there are no surviving children, or if there is no spouse or domestic partner, then any person who would be entitled to the property of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim.
  • If there were individuals dependent on the deceased at the time of death, including a putative spouse, the children of the putative spouse, or stepchildren or parents of the deceased. Under the law, a “putative spouse” is defined as “the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid.”
  • A minor that resided with the person for 180 days in the deceased’s home and was dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support.
  • The deceased’s personal representative on behalf of those authorized to bring the suit.

What Kind of Compensation Is Available in a California Wrongful Death Claim?

Various types of compensation could be recovered by family members who have lost a loved one. However, it is not uncommon for family members to seek the following damages in a wrongful death claim:

  • Loss of past and future income and support
  • Any pre-death medical bills
  • Pain and suffering that the deceased experienced before death
  • Compensation for the loss of companionship and support of the deceased
  • The reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided
  • Funeral and burial expenses

The total amount of compensation family members will receive if their claim is successful will depend on various factors specific to their case. This can include the deceased’s life expectancy at the time of the wrongful act, their income at the time of death, projected income had the wrongful act not occurred, and more.

How Do Wrongful Death Cases Arise?

There are innumerable ways in which a wrongful death case could arise. Some of the most common incidents that lead to wrongful death claims include the following:

  • Car accidents
  • Pedestrian or bicycle accidents
  • Assault and battery
  • Murder and manslaughter
  • Elder abuse and neglect
  • Medical malpractice
  • Drowning
  • Workplace accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Defective products

This is by no means a complete list, and you should consult with an Orange County wrongful death attorney about your case.

What Is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in California?

In California, there is a two-year statute of limitations in place for wrongful death claims. This means that a claim must be brought by the individuals mentioned above within two years of the date of the person’s death.

Covid 19 Update: We are accepting new cases and we handle everything electronically and remotely, so our clients never have to leave their homes.