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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.

Who Can Sue For Wrongful Death?

The wrongful death laws in California allow certain family members to file a wrongful death claim to obtain compensation when a person’s or entity’s actions lead to the death of a loved one. You may be entitled to compensation in a wrongful death action whether the death was because of negligence, such as running a stop sign, or malice, as with a murder. Speak to our Oakland wrongful death attorney at Bracamontes & Vlasak for more information about the state’s wrongful death laws and your case.

What Is A Wrongful Death?

A California wrongful death claim can arise from many situations, including motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, criminal activity, and more. To receive compensation in a lawsuit, you must prove the following:

  • A person died
  • The death was due to someone else’s negligence or desire to cause harm
  • The surviving family suffered financial losses because of the death
  • There is a personal representative for the deceased’s estate that has been appointed

Note that proving wrongful death only requires showing a ‘preponderance of the evidence’ to prove liability. This is a lower standard than needed to obtain a guilty verdict in a criminal case, which is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’

Who May Sue For Wrongful Death In California?

CCP 377.60 (a) in California states that the following parties may sue for wrongful death:

  • The deceased’s surviving spouse or domestic partner, and the issue of deceased children. If there is no surviving issue of the deceased, the persons – such as the surviving domestic partner or spouse – can receive the deceased’s property according to intestate succession. Intestate succession means a person who is authorized by the law to inherit the deceased’s property if the person died without a will.
  • The putative spouse, his or her children, stepchildren, or parents, if they were dependent on the deceased. According to the statute, ‘putative spouse’ means a surviving spouse of a marriage determined by the court to have thought in good faith it was a valid marriage.
  • A minor, if, when the deceased died, he or she resided for the previous six months in the deceased’s household and was a dependent for 50% or more of the minor’s financial support.

What Are The Available Damages In A California Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

If you are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California and receive a settlement or favorable verdict, you may be entitled to some or all of the following:

  • Medical expenses to care for the deceased before their death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The amount of money the decedent would have earned if they had not died
  • Loss of financial support for the family members who survived
  • Loss of affection and companionship for the surviving family members

How Long Do You Have To File A California Wrongful Death Claim?

You have only two years from the death to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. If the case is not filed in the appropriate court at that time, the family usually loses the right to file a lawsuit.

Contact Our Oakland Wrongful Death Attorney Today

If you lose a loved one in an accident because of someone’s negligence, the wrongful death laws in California protect you. You may be entitled to compensation for your terrible loss, so please contact our Oakland wrongful death attorney at Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C., today at (415) 835-6777.