Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California?
When a person dies because of someone else’s negligence, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed in California under the California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60. The law does not accept a wrongful death claim from anyone who comes forward. There is a list of people who are entitled to file the claim in the courts.
So who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California? What kind of damages can they claim for the loss of their loved one? In this post, we will look at the wrongful death laws in California including what is mentioned in California’s wrongful death statute. First, let us understand what do you mean by wrongful death?
What is Wrongful death?
A “wrongful death claim” arises in California when a person dies because of a wrongful act or negligence of another person or body. A wrongful death claim can be directly filed in the civil court by the survivors of the deceased person. The fault is expressed in terms of damages and loss in monetary terms.
California permits a family or immediate beneficiaries of the deceased to file a civil wrongful death claim to court even if the state already has a criminal case for the same being tried in the criminal court.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California?
The California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 has listed the people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. The list includes:
The surviving spouse of the deceased victim has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. Domestic partners or “putative” spouses also fall under the same category and are eligible to file for damages and compensation under the wrongful death lawsuit.
Putative spouses are people who believed that they had a valid marriage with the victim whereas in reality, the marriage was invalid or voidable. If the person believes that they had a valid marriage and was financially dependent on the deceased victim, they can file a lawsuit seeking due compensation.
If an individual loses his or her biological or adoptive parent because of a wrongful act or negligence of a third person, they can file for a wrongful death claim. Stepchildren who were financially dependent on the deceased victim can also file a claim for compensation.
Minor children who lived with the victim for a minimum of 180 days before the death and whose at least 50 per cent of the financial needs were taken care by the victim can also file a lawsuit, even though they are not the legal children on the deceased.
If parents lose their minor child or an adult child having no descendants, they have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Parents, who can prove they were financially dependent on their child, can also file for compensation.
- Other Heirs
If a victim is not survived by a spouse, child or parents, in such cases other family members who can be declared as heirs under the California intestacy laws can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Heirs are defined as the people who can legally inherit the property and assets after the death of the person, even if they have not left behind a will.
It has been noticed in a number of wrongful death lawsuits, that there are several eligible people who want to file a claim. It is not possible for a single attorney to represent all the claimants without having an ethical conflict.
Therefore in such circumstances, the case can be simplified if a designated personal representative of the deceased victim’s estate files a common wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of all the eligible claimants.
Once the settlement is obtained, the personal representative is responsible for distributing the compensation amount appropriately amongst all the claimants.
What types of damages and compensations can be claimed under a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A number of damages and compensations can be claimed under the wrongful death lawsuit in California. The damages cover the losses and expenses occurred by the claimant, they include:
- Funeral and Burial expenses
- All the Medical and Hospital expenses incurred due to the deceased victim’s final illness or injury
- Loss of income including potential income which the deceased victim would have been earned in the future had
- He did not become a victim of wrongful death.
- Losses which are applicable to the surviving family members like:
- Loss of help in household services
- Loss of expected financial support
- Loss of love, companionship, moral support, guidance etc.
What is the statute of limitations for filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Similar to personal injury claims, wrongful death lawsuits in California are required to be filed within a specific time period. This is known as the statute of limitations in legal terms.
As per the statute of limitations for filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit, the family or the legal heirs have a period of two years to file the claim from the date of the death of the victim. After two years the family or the legal heirs lose the right to file any claim for compensation for wrongful death.
Wrongful Death Lawyers in California
If you have lost a dear one because of the negligence of a third party, a wrongful death lawyer from our firm will work diligently to determine the exact cause of the death, who is liable for the death, and who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California under the Code of Civil Procedure 377.60.
Contact us at (951) 461-2387 for a free, confidential consultation.