Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

A “wrongful death” occurs when a person dies due to the negligent, careless, intentional, or reckless act of another person or entity (such as a business that creates a defective product). Under California law, if your loved one suffers fatal injuries as a result of the negligence or reckless actions of another, you might be able to bring a wrongful death claim against the wrongdoer. An experienced wrongful death lawyer will help you determine if you have ‘standing’ to bring the lawsuit. Standing, or locus standi, is the ability of a party to bring suit in court.

Who can bring a wrongful death claim?

The California Code of Civil Procedure §377.60 identifies all of the persons who are proper parties to bring a wrongful death case. These people include the:

• decedent’s surviving spouse,
• domestic partner,
• children, and
• children of pre-deceased children.

This list is not exhaustive. For example, if the deceased does not have any surviving children, any persons (including the surviving spouse or domestic partner) who would otherwise be entitled to inherent the property of the deceased if he or she died without a will can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California. Additionally, stepchildren or parents who were financially dependent upon the decedent may also have the right to bring a wrongful death claim. Furthermore, any minor (whether or not a natural child or a stepchild) who resided in the home of the decedent for the prior six months and who was dependent upon the decedent for at least one-half or more of his or her financial support also has the right to bring a wrongful death claim. As you can see, the potential list of who might be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California can be confusing. A skilled wrongful lawyer will look at your case and help you determine whether you have ‘standing’ to file the lawsuit and what your potential for financial recovery looks like.