Parties That Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California

Parties That Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California

When a loved one passes away, the grief can be devastating.

Yet when someone dies because of another party’s negligence, emotional anguish over the loss of a loved one frequently is accompanied with anger and frustration.

If another party’s careless or reckless act caused the death of a close family member, it is important to speak with a wrongful death California attorney.

Our wrongful death attorneys can help you learn more about options that may be available to you for filing a wrongful death lawsuit California.

Are you able to file a wrongful death claim? At Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law, we know how tough it is to consider the legal side of your loved one’s death, but we also want to make sure that you are able to hold the responsible party accountable and to obtain the financial compensation you deserve.

If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you should begin by learning more about who can sue for wrongful death in California and whether you are eligible to file a claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in California?

California’s wrongful death law (California Code of Civ. Proc. §§ 377.10-377.62) governs wrongful death claims in the statute, including who can file a wrongful death suit. Under § 377.60, the following surviving parties connected to the decedent are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California:

  • Personal representative;
  • Spouse;
  • Domestic partner;
  • Children;
  • Lineal descendants of a deceased child or children;
  • Party who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession;
  • Party who was dependent on the decedent;
  • Putative spouse;
  • Children of the putative spouse;
  • Stepchildren;
  • Parents; and/or
  • Minor, even if unrelated to the decedent, who resided in the decedent’s household and was dependent on the decedent for one-half or more of the minor’s support.

Understanding the Definitions of Parties Who Are Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim in California

Some of these terms listed above can be confusing. For example, one of the parties that the statute identifies as having a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is an “issue of deceased children,” which we have defined above as the lineal descendants of a deceased child or children of the decedent. What does this mean in practice? For example, if the decedent (the person at the center of the wrongful death lawsuit) had an adult child who also had children, and then that adult child died at some point in the past, one of the children of that adult child could be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

The statute also identifies a putative spouse as a party who may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, but what is a putative spouse under California law? The statute specifically defines a putative spouse 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.”

For example, the decedent may have married Party A several decades ago and separated from Party A later on. The decedent and Party A never officially got divorced, but the decedent nonetheless married Party B without informing Party B about Party A’s existence. Since the decedent already was married, the decedent could not legally marry Party B.

Thus, the marriage would have been invalid. However, since Party B believed that she actually was lawfully married to the decedent, Party B likely would be an example of a putative spouse.

Intestate Succession

Another term that may be confusing is a party who would be eligible to inherit from the decedent through intestate succession. Intestate succession is a term that refers to the passage of a decedent’s property if the decedent dies without a valid will.

Often, when a person dies as a result of another party’s negligence, that person will die intestate if they have not planned ahead by executing a will. Any party who would be eligible to inherit property based on California’s laws of intestate succession is permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit under California law.

How about a personal representative of the deceased? This term—the “personal representative” of the deceased—is a term that many states use to refer to a party who represents the deceased in a wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, if one of the parties specifically listed in the statute is not able to file a lawsuit, a personal representative may be someone who serves as executor of the decedent’s estate, or another interested party.

Contact a California Wrongful Death Attorney

If you have questions about filing a wrongful death lawsuit or want to know whether you are eligible to file a claim, you should talk with a California wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law today.

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