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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

The death of a family member is tragic. Losing someone you love is never easy. However, when you lose a family member suddenly, the loss can be shocking. When the cause of death was avoidable, the shock and grief may also be accompanied by anger and frustration.

California’s wrongful death statutes give family members a way to seek justice for their loved ones. It provides the legal cause of action to hold a party accountable for negligence, errors, or wrongdoing in the death of another person. While a monetary judgment can never replace a family member, a wrongful death lawsuit can help provide assistance for a family who suffers financial hardship after the loss of a loved one.

What is a Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs when one party causes the death of another party through negligence or intentional wrongdoing. Therefore, someone could cause a traffic fatality because they were texting while driving and sued for wrongful death.

Likewise, a person could be sued for wrongful death for intentionally running a person off the road. Wrongful death actions are not dependent upon criminal charges being filed or someone being judged guilty of a crime. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil actions that are not dependent upon the outcome of any criminal case.

Examples of situations which could give rise to a wrongful death claim include, but are not limited to:

  • Motor vehicle accidents, including pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Boating accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents (Premises Liability claims)
  • Dog bites and animal attacks
  • Construction site accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Defective product accidents
  • Defective medications or defective medical products
  • Amusement park accidents
  • Sports and recreational activities
  • Assault and violent acts, including murder or manslaughter

Any incident that results in the death of another party could be a reason for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California

The California wrongful death statute limits who has “standing” to file a wrongful death lawsuit. “Standing” means the legal right to file a claim or action. The wrongful death laws provide that the following individuals may file a wrongful death claim:

  • The surviving spouse or domestic partner;
  • Children and the children of a deceased child; or,
  • If there are no surviving children or grandchildren, persons who would inherit property through an intestate succession, which may include parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, and nephews.

The statutes also allow certain individuals who were financially dependent upon the deceased person to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Those individuals include a putative spouse and any children born to the deceased and putative spouse, stepchildren, and the deceased’s parents. A putative spouse is a spouse whose marriage to the deceased was in good faith and believed by the parties to be a valid marriage even though the marriage was voidable or invalid.

Deadlines for Filing Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Family members and other individuals with standing generally have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are some exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for wrongful death claims. Depending on the type of claim and other circumstances relevant to the claim, a family member could have less than two years to file a claim.

It is best to seek the advice of an experienced California wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to preserve your right to seek justice for your family and loved one.

Contact a California Wrongful Death Lawyer for Help

Wrongful death claims are complicated legal matters. If you believe your loved one’s death was the result of negligence or wrongdoing, get help from a qualified attorney. Contact Yarian and Associates today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal right to pursue a claim for wrongful death.

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