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Who Can Make A Wrongful Death Claim In California?

In California, wrongful death claims are governed by specific statutes that determine who is eligible to file a lawsuit in the event of an individual’s death caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another. Here’s an overview of who can make a wrongful death claim in California based on California’s Wrongful Death and Intestacy Statutes:

Statutory Beneficiaries

Under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60, the following individuals are typically eligible to bring a wrongful death claim:

  • Immediate Family Members – This includes the deceased’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, and children. Given their direct and intimate connection with the deceased, these members are often considered first in line for such claims.
  • Dependent Minors – If they resided in the deceased’s household for at least 180 days before the death and were dependent on the deceased for at least 50% of their support. This provision recognizes the economic and emotional impact on minors who were dependent on the deceased, even if they are not biologically related.
  • Putative Spouse and Children of the Putative Spouse – A putative spouse, defined as someone who believed in good faith that they were married to the deceased, along with their children, also have rights under this statute. California law acknowledges relationships that are substantively akin to marriage despite lacking formal legal recognition.
  • Stepchildren – They can file a claim if they were dependent on the deceased for support. This provision extends eligibility to stepchildren, reflecting the diverse family structures and recognizing the support role deceased step-parents may have played.
  • Parents – This applies if they were dependent on the deceased for financial support. This inclusion is particularly significant in cases where the deceased was a primary caregiver or financial provider for elderly or dependent parents.

If there are multiple claimants, California’s Wrongful Death and Intestacy Statutes prioritize closer family members (like spouses and children) over more distant relatives (like parents or siblings). This hierarchy is designed to reflect the typical emotional and financial impact of the loss. In cases where multiple parties have an equally strong claim, the court may distribute the settlement among them in a manner deemed just and fair.

Damages That May Be Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Action

Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the facts of the case, claimants might be able to seek the following damages:

  • Loss of financial support the deceased would have contributed, calculated based on the deceased’s expected lifetime earnings and potential.
  • Loss of gifts or benefits the claimant would have expected to receive from the deceased, acknowledging the tangible aspects of the relationship lost.
  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • The reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided, recognizing the non-financial contributions to the family unit.
  • Damages for the loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support.

California’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

According to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1, wrongful death claims in California must be filed within two years of the date of the deceased’s death. This statute of limitations is strictly enforced, with few exceptions. The time frame is intended to ensure timely resolution of claims and preserve the integrity of evidence.

Our experienced Bay Area wrongful death attorney helps clients navigate these complex laws, ensure timely filing, and maximize the compensation for the beneficiaries. Our law firm plays a crucial role in gathering evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and representing the family’s interests in court.

Contact Our Bay Area Wrongful Death Lawyers for Legal Help Today!

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence in California, you don’t have to handle this claim alone. At Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C., we are committed to providing compassionate and effective legal representation for wrongful death claims in California.

Contact our Bay Area wrongful death attorneys at 415-835-6777 for your free case evaluation and consultation. Let our experienced legal team help you seek the justice and compensation you and your family deserve during this challenging time.