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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case in California? 

When someone loses their life because of the negligent actions of another person, company, or entity, family members are often left wondering what steps to take next. In some cases, filing a wrongful death claim against an allegedly negligent party is warranted. We encourage you to contact out to a trusted wrongful death attorney who can help you through this process. An attorney can use their resources to help you stand up to other parties involved. However, only certain individuals are allowed to file wrongful death claims in California.

What Does the Wrongful Death Statute Say?

California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 specifies that specific family members are allowed to file wrongful death lawsuits in civil court. However, California does allow a few different “types” of family members to file these claims, something we will get to in just a moment.

In general, California’s wrongful death laws allow the following eligible parties to bring a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse
  • The decedent’s domestic partner
  • The decedent’s children
  • The decedent’s grandchildren (if the decedent’s children are also deceased)
  • Other minor children, such as stepchildren, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half (50%) of their financial support
  • Any other individuals who would be entitled to inherit from the victim under California’s laws on intestate succession

California also allows a putative spouse and their children, stepchildren, parents, or the legal guardians of the decedent (if the parents are deceased) to file a claim. A putative spouse is a person who believed in good faith that their marriage to the deceased was real, though it was likely a void or voidable marriage. Other states do not allow putative spouses to recover wrongful death compensation in most circumstances.

Do These Individuals Have to File a Claim Right Away?

Wrongful death claims in California should be filed promptly. The statute of limitations specifies that family members or their representatives must file a wrongful death claim within two years from the date the death occurred, with a few exceptions. Typically, failing to file a wrongful death lawsuit within this time frame will likely result in the case getting dismissed, leaving family members and the estate of the deceased without a way to recover compensation.

How Do You Know If You Have a Wrongful Death Case?

Understanding whether or not you have a wrongful death claim can be confusing, and we encourage you to seek a free consultation from an attorney who can guide you through this part of the process. A wrongful death occurs when someone with their life due to the negligence, recklessness, carelessness, or intentional actions of another party. These incidents can occur in a wide variety of ways, including vehicle accidents, premises liability incidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and more.

Seek a Free Consultation With an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you have lost somebody you love due to the negligent actions of another individual, company, or entity in the Los Angeles area, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney immediately. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help families and estate representatives navigate the complex legal challenges associated with these claims.