Wrongful Death Claims in California

If a person is killed due to some other person’s wrongful conduct, this is called a wrongful death. This is one of the most difficult situation for any family to find themselves in—there’s the emotional trauma and impact of losing someone, and there’s also the loss of income and means for those who depend on the victim, including worries over death-related costs. A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit and is directly brought to court by the survivors of the deceased. If the lawsuit is successful, the court will order the defendant to pay the decedent’s survivors.

Every state has a set of statutes which set the procedures for bringing wrongful death actions. In California, only certain people are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit. These people include:

  • Surviving spouse and children, including putative

  • Parents, siblings, or children of deceased siblings

  • Domestic partner

  • Grandparents or lineal descendants

  • Individuals who were depending financially on the deceased person at the time of death

In cases where there are multiple surviving family members in a single case, it must be decided how to divide the damages to be rewarded. The jury would award a single lump sum to a group of successful plaintiffs, to which they would decide how to split it.

California law requires that a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years from the decedent’s death. Anything beyond that will not be accepted.


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