Who has Standing to Sue for Wrongful Death in California?

March 18, 2021
Barrios Machado

Who Has Standing to Sue for Wrongful Death in California?An unnecessary death caused by another party’s negligence can bring overwhelming shock and grief. 

Should a person die as a result of another’s negligent, reckless or intentional act, the California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 allows the decedent’s surviving family members or estate to sue for wrongful death damages.

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is a claim against a person or entity whose negligent act can be held liable for a death. 

The claim is brought in a civil lawsuit, usually by the decedent’s survivors or estate, as enumerated by statute. Liability is expressed in terms of court-ordered monetary damages paid by the defendant to the decedent's survivors in the case of a successful lawsuit.

Wrongful death can be filed by the decedent’s survivors against the responsible party/parties to seek financial compensation for various damages which include:

  • funeral and burial expenses 
  • the decedent’s final medical bills
  • loss of expected financial support
  • loss of the decedent’s potential income
  • loss of love, moral support, and guidance

Who can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Under California law, only certain family members and/or dependents have legal standing to pursue damages for wrongful death.  

  • Surviving spouses
  • Domestic partners
  • Surviving children (biological or adopted)
  • Grandchildren (if the decedent’s children are also deceased),
  • Financially dependent “putative spouse”
  • Financially dependent parents
  • Financially dependent stepchildren
  • In some situations, under “intestate succession” laws, certain persons are entitled to a share of the estate if the decedent did not leave a will.

Who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit in California?

The decedent’s estate and surviving family members may be eligible to receive compensation for damages incurred, such as economic damages (loss of financial support) and non-economic damages (loss of affection, attention, and guidance).

Under California law, each party who has a lawful claim must be named either as a plaintiff or involuntary defendant in the wrongful death lawsuit to be entitled to compensation.

It is ideal for the designated cash recipients to reach an agreement with other family members. Otherwise, a California court has the authority to divide the settlement equitably among qualified family members in the absence of compromise. 

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in California

A wrongful death claim in California should be made within two years of the date the death occurred. If a claimant fails to file a case during this time, they will probably lose their right to seek financial compensation.

Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney in California

With a combined 25 years of California law practice, we have helped thousands of our clients fight for their rights against the person responsible for a loved one’s wrongful death.

If a loved one has died in circumstances that you believe could have been prevented and you have suffered financial loss, contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. 

Schedule a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case by calling us today at (714) 515-9696.

Have Questions? Get in Touch.

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