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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

April 27, 2020 — by John Conger
Tags: Wrongful Death

Mother and child at a gravesiteWhen a person dies, surviving loved ones often suffer emotionally and financially. If a death is the result of another person or party’s reckless or negligent actions, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed to seek financial compensation for resulting losses.

The wrongful death lawyers at Shore, McKinley, Conger & Jolley, LLP are prepared to fight to get clients from Stockton, CA, Walnut Creek, CA, and surrounding areas compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost income, loss of benefits, funeral expenses, and loss of consortium (or companionship). However, prior to taking legal action, it is important to know who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California

Wrongful death lawsuits are intended to provide financial compensation to loved ones who are directly impacted (both financially and emotionally) by the loss of a loved one. However, each state has its own laws that dictate exactly who is able to file a wrongful death claim. In the state of California, the law explicitly states that a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the following people:

  • Surviving spouse of the deceased
  • Domestic partner of the deceased
  • Surviving children of the deceased

If there are no surviving descendants of the deceased, then California’s wrongful death statute stipulates that a wrongful death claim can be filed by any person who is “entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.” Based on inheritance, this most typically refers to the parents or the siblings of the deceased, depending on which family members are still living at the time of the death.

Additional Claimants

In addition to the primary people who are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California, the following people can pursue a claim provided that they are able to demonstrate that they were financially dependent upon the deceased at the time of death:

  • The deceased person’s putative spouse (a putative marriage is one entered into in good faith, but invalid due to a legal flaw such as a previous marriage)
  • Children of the deceased’s putative spouse
  • Stepchildren of the deceased

In these cases, our attorneys can help our Walnut Creek clients gather and provide the evidence that is necessary to demonstrate that they suffered, or will suffer, financial losses as a result of the wrongful death.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

No matter who is considering filing a wrongful death suit, they need to be aware of California’s statute of limitations. The state’s statute of limitations requires that a wrongful death suit be filed within two years of the date of death. If this deadline passes before a lawsuit is filed, our clients will be unable to collect the financial compensation they are due, despite losses. Anyone considering a wrongful death lawsuit should get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible after a death, so that the window of opportunity is not lost.

Contact Our Attorneys

If you are considering a wrongful death lawsuit and are unsure of the compensation you may be due, the attorneys at Shore, McKinley, Conger & Jolley, LLP would be happy to provide you with more information. Contact our attorneys online at your earliest convenience or call (209) 477-8171.