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Home » Who Can File and Be Awarded a Wrongful Death Suit in California?

Who Can File and Be Awarded a Wrongful Death Suit in California?

Filing a Wrongful Death Suit

How California defines “wrongful death” — and who can make the case for wrongful death — is carefully defined by the state. Understanding these guidelines is crucial for survivors, whose lives have been destroyed by the wrongful death of a loved one, and who are now facing financial pressure in addition to the emotional burden.

wrongful death suit may also be a family’s only chance of achieving a sense of justice when a loved one has senselessly lost his or her life.


How California Defines “Wrongful Death”

This legal term is used in civil lawsuits, rather than criminal cases. Only legally-defined survivors or estate representatives may bring wrongful death lawsuits. This is opposed to criminal cases, when homicide or manslaughter charges are brought by the state.

Penalties in civil wrongful death cases are financial, whereas penalties in criminal cases of homicide generally involve jail time.

In California, to establish wrongful death in a civil lawsuit, it must be proven that negligence or a wrongful act directly led to a person’s death. Therefore, anything from inadequate care in a nursing home, to a planned homicide, could theoretically be considered a wrongful death. Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed regardless of past or pending criminal charges.

Who the State Allows to File Wrongful Death Suits

California stipulates that only specific parties can file this kind of suit in civil court. Some can automatically file, while others have to prove financial dependency or claim.

Those included in the category of people who can file and be awarded in a wrongful death suit, under California state law are:

  • The deceased’s spouse or domestic partner
  • The legal children of the deceased person
  • The deceased’s “putative spouse,” which is defined legally as the surviving
  • partner of what one or both members of the couple incorrectly thought was a legal marriage — if they can prove dependency.
  • The children resulting from a putative marriage — if they can prove dependency.
  • The stepchildren of the deceased person — if they can prove dependency.
  • Parents or siblings of the deceased person — if they can prove dependency.
  • A person or organization that would be the beneficiary of the deceased’s estate in the absence of direct survivors, such as financial dependents or those who had a claim on the estate.

Do You Think You Have a Strong Wrongful Death Case?

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is neither frivolous nor selfish. They can often help those awarded damages recover burial and funeral expenses, the deceased’s lost income, and medical bills.

Wrongful death lawsuits can also result in damages paid for financial support the filing party would have received had the deceased lived; the monetary cost of replacing household labor the deceased person provided; and monetary compensation for the emotional damage wrought by losing that person.

Contact Johnson Attorneys Group in California for a Free Case Evaluation Today

It’s important to act on wrongful death cases as soon as possible, because the wrongful party is often motivated to hide evidence or otherwise obstruct justice. Contact our experienced California attorney at Johnson Attorneys Group today for a free consultation by calling our office, or setting up an appointment online.

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