If someone you love tragically dies in an accident or due to a violent crime, it is only natural to want to obtain justice for them and take legal action. However, California law does not allow anyone to come forward and file a wrongful death claim. The following is a list of people who may file this type of claim in California courts:
Spouse — If you are the surviving spouse of the deceased accident victim, you have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. This is also true for domestic partners and “putative” spouses. A putative spouse is a person who believed they were in a valid marriage when, in reality, the marriage was void or voidable. If the putative spouse believes they were married and financially relied on the deceased, they will have the right to seek compensation.
Children — If you lose your biological or adoptive parent in a wrongful death, you may file a claim for wrongful death. The same is true for stepchildren who can prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased at the time of death. In addition, minors who lived with the deceased for at least 180 days before the death and relied on the deceased for at least 50 percent of their financial support may also have a claim, even if they are not legal children.
Parents — If you have lost your minor child or an adult child with no descendants, you have the right to recover by filing for wrongful death. In addition, parents have the right to bring a claim if they can demonstrate they were financially dependent on their child.
Other Heirs — If there is no spouse or child who survives the deceased, other family members who are deemed to be heirs under California intestacy laws have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Heirs are the people who would legally inherit the deceased person’s property if that person died without a will.
In many wrongful death cases, there may be several people who are eligible to file a claim. It may be difficult for one attorney to represent all of the claimants without an ethical conflict and these cases can become unwieldy. In such situations, it is possible to simplify the case by having the designated personal representative of the deceased person’s estate bring the wrongful death claim on behalf of all of the eligible survivors. If a settlement or award is obtained, the personal representative can then distribute the recovery appropriately to the survivors.
Discuss your Situation with a California Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one and are wondering about your legal rights and options, do not hesitate to discuss a possible case with the GJEL Accident Attorneys. We offer free consultations with no obligation to use our services, so you have nothing to lose by sitting down and talking to us about your loss. We are here to help you, so please call us at 866-218-3776 to schedule your consultation.