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 Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in California?

This content about wrongful death claims was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.

When the death of a person is a consequence of another person’s or entity’s fault (like a company, for example), the deceased’s family might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. These lawsuits aim to recover damages (compensation, usually monetary) for the survivor’s family losses, such as loss of companionship, benefits, lost wages, and funeral expenses. Keep reading to find out who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California-

Parties Who Can File a Suit for Wrongful Death in California

Not everyone is allowed to bring a wrongful death suit in California. The relevant statute point out the specific parties allowed; they must have one of the following relations with the deceased person:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Surviving children (sons or daughters)
  • If there are no survivors in the deceased person’s line of descent, the lawsuit can be filed by anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession”; i.e., parents, or siblings of the deceased person.

There are other parties allowed to bring a wrongful death claim in California, but they must prove they were financially dependent on the deceased person and be related in one of the following ways:

  • Putative spouse (defined by Cornell Law School’s Legal encyclopedia as a “person who enters into a bigamous marriage believing in good faith that it is a valid marriage” meaning the person “is unaware his spouse is already married”), and children of the putative spouse
  • Stepchildren
  • Parents of the deceased person.

You can read the full text of the California wrongful death statute at California Code of Civil Procedure section 337.60, et seq.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

When somebody’s death is due to the legal fault of another person, a wrongful death claim can be filed. This concept is relatively new, but it gained traction during the last century, as federal courts also recognized the right to submit a wrongful death action.

Currently, each state has a law that allows for wrongful death lawsuits. Every state also has a different set of rules as to how to approach the case, file it, and who may receive damages from it, among other details that vary from one state to another.

Wrongful death claims can be brought for (but are not limited to) all types of accidents or misconduct that resulted in the death of someone, from product liability cases, and complex medical malpractice, to civil rights cases, to simple car accidents.

Government agencies, companies, and people can be sued if they are legally responsible for acts of negligence or violations of rights that caused a person’s death.

Haddad & Sherwin LLP has a long, successful track record winning wrongful death and other serious civil rights claims for police and jail officer misconduct, throughout Northern and Central California.  Call or email us for a free consultation.

This content was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.