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Holding Negligent Parties Accountable in Wrongful Death Cases in California

May 7, 2024 | Wrongful Death

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the surviving family members of a deceased person whose premature death was caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another person or entity. Wrongful death claims are distinct from criminal charges, which punish the defendant for their actions. Wrongful death lawsuits, on the other hand, are designed to compensate the surviving family for the financial and emotional losses they have suffered.

The sudden loss of a loved one is a devastating experience. When another’s negligence causes that loss, the emotional pain can be heightened by a sense of injustice. Wrongful death lawsuits provide a pathway for surviving family members to seek compensation and hold a negligent party accountable.

Who can file a wrongful death claim?

California’s wrongful death law empowers surviving family members to seek compensation for these losses through a civil lawsuit. But who exactly can file a wrongful death claim in California?

State law outlines a specific order of precedence for family members who can file a wrongful death claim. The first priority to file a wrongful death claim falls to the decedent’s surviving spouse or registered domestic partner. If the decedent had children, biological or adopted, they can also bring a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes the children of any deceased child of the decedent (grandchildren).

In some cases, a minor who was financially dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support may be eligible to file a claim. This could include stepchildren or even non-marital partners who relied on the deceased financially.

Suppose there are no surviving spouses, domestic partners or children; the right to file a wrongful death claim may pass to the decedent’s intestate heirs. These are the individuals who would inherit the deceased’s property if they died without a will. This category typically includes parents, siblings or other blood relatives.

Wrongful death lawsuits serve a vital purpose in securing justice for many surviving family members. While no amount of money can bring back a loved one lost too soon, compensation can minimize some of the financial burdens associated with loss and provide some solace during a difficult time. Families that have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence can benefit from consulting with a wrongful death attorney who can help them understand their legal rights and options.