Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

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7 Types of Plaintiffs in California Wrongful Death Lawsuits

7 Types of Plaintiffs in California Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Aug 21, 2023

Wrongful Death is one of the subcategories of personal injury law. It can encompass a wide range of different claims which may ultimately lead to civil litigation and a cash settlement or damages award through a jury trial. Wrongful Death can cover everything from murder to medical malpractice to serious car accidents or even claims for product liability. When you hear the term “wrongful death,” it’s usually referring to a civil suit brought by a family member of someone who died due to negligence or misconduct.

Who Can File a California Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death claims are typically brought under the following circumstances:

  • A loved one died
  • Their death was due to negligence or carelessness
  • The surviving family members or dependents suffered financial damages (losses) due to the death
  • An individual is listed in the decedent’s estate has been identified

Knowing who can file a wrongful death claim after the death of a loved one is important. In the majority of cases, immediate family members of the decedent (the individual who died) are the first to be eligible to file such a claim. But other types of individuals may also be entitled to file wrongful death lawsuits.

Let’s take a look at seven types of California wrongful death claim plaintiffs in the sections below.

7 Types of Wrongful Death Plaintiffs in California Civil Claims

  1. A Surviving Spouse: If the deceased individual was legally married at the time of the accident, his or her surviving spouse (or domestic partner) would be considered by the court as someone who has the right to bring a claim for wrongful death. However, the court may deny the right of the surviving spouse to pursue the case if the court determines that they are not legally competent. A party can also waive their “right of priority” under California law.
  2. A Surviving Child (or Children): In instances where there is no surviving spouse, the surviving child or children may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Such eligible claimants can include biological children, fully-adopted children, and stepchildren. If the surviving children are minors at the time of the tragic accident or incident, the court will appoint a guardian to file and pursue a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Additionally, it’s important to note that grandchildren may also be eligible to file a suit if the decedent’s children are deceased.
  3. Dependent Minors: If you are a minor who lived in the household of the deceased and are also considered a dependent, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim for compensation. In order to be eligible, you must have lived in the household for at least six months before the time of death. Additionally, as a dependent, you must have relied on the deceased for at least half of your financial support.
  4. Parents of the Deceased: If you are a parent who was financially dependent on a now-deceased child who died tragically in an incident that involved negligence or carelessness, you may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim for financial compensation. Additionally, in cases where the deceased is a minor or unmarried and without any dependent children, the right of priority to pursue a wrongful death civil claim will automatically pass to the surviving parents.
  5. Various Heirs: Under California’s intestate succession laws, in cases where none of the above family members or dependents survived the deceased, certain heirs may be eligible to inherit from the victim and therefore eligible to file a wrongful death claim. The priority for such heirs typically begins with surviving parents, then moves to siblings or children of departed siblings, grandparents, and children of a spouse who has passed away.
  6. A Personal Representative from the Decedent’s Estate: In cases where numerous plaintiffs are eligible to bring wrongful death claims, more than one attorney may be involved. Accordingly, to prevent any conflicts of interest, claimants can choose to appoint a personal representative of the decedent’s estate to file a single action on behalf of all the parties with interests. This type of arrangement often helps to move the case forward without complicated litigation which can last many years. Once a cash settlement is reached in the civil claim, it will be distributed fairly according to the California wrongful death statute.
  7. A Next of Kin: If the deceased owned property and none of the above family of dependents are available, any of the victim’s next of kin may be eligible to file a California wrongful death claim.

How Long Do I Have to File a California Wrongful Death Claim?

Eligible individuals typically have two years following the date that the deceased individual passed away to file a wrongful death claim. An exception called the “discovery rule” may apply if:

  • You reasonably didn’t know that the person died, or
  • The cause of the death giving rise to your wrongful death claim doesn’t become clear until sometime after the person’s death

If you were unaware of your loved one’s death, you may actually have more than the standard two-year California wrongful death statute of limitations to file your claim – specifically, two years after the date on which the person’s death was (or should have been) known, or the cause of death giving rise to the wrongful death claim was determined.

Contact Dordulian Law Group’s wrongful death lawyers today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM for a free consultation.

Free California Wrongful Death Lawyer Consultation

Do not miss the deadline to file your civil lawsuit for wrongful death. As an eligible family member or dependent, failing to file your claim within the statute of limitations means you waive your right to financial compensation.

If you experienced a premises liability injury, don’t wait to file a claim. Contact our expert attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG’s) Glendale, California, wrongful death lawyers have secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts for clients while maintaining a 98% success record. With our No Win/No Fee Guarantee, you never have to worry about out-of-pocket expenses. With DLG, there is never any upfront cost for our expert wrongful death legal representation – you only pay after we successfully secure a maximum financial damages award for your claim.

Contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM to learn more.

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