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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

G. Aldrich Law June 21, 2022

The sudden and unexpected death of a family member is a life-changing, heavy experience. It can be difficult to cope with the death of a loved one, especially if someone else’s negligence was responsible for it.

At G. Aldrich Law, we understand how tough this time is for you. That is why our wrongful death attorneys are dedicated to providing clients with compassionate support and legal assistance in matters involving the wrongful death of a loved one. We can provide you with the guidance you need to help you understand your legal rights and determine whether you can file a claim. 

Our knowledgeable attorneys serve families in Woodland Hills, Lakeport, and throughout the state of California, including Los Angeles County, Riverside County, Lake County, and surrounding Northern and Southern California counties.

Why File a Wrongful Death Claim?

No amount of money can bring back your loved one or compensate you for your tragic loss. However, filing a wrongful death claim is still important for at least three reasons:

  1. You can get the much-needed justice. When your family member dies because of someone else’s negligence, the negligent party should be held accountable for their conduct. Filing and winning a wrongful death lawsuit can help you seek justice.

  2. You can establish accountability. Holding the negligent party accountable for their conduct could potentially prevent similar tragedies for others.  

  3. You can get the financial relief you need. While it is true that no amount of money is enough to compensate you for everything you had to go through after the loss of your loved one, filing a wrongful death claim and seeking financial relief is vital to help you and other family members move forward.

If you lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent or wrongful conduct and do not know who can file a wrongful death claim, consider speaking with a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your unique situation.

What Constitutes Wrongful Death in California?

California law defines “wrongful death” as the death that occurs as a result of someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or an intent to cause harm.

In California, surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim when their loved one dies because of someone else’s negligent, reckless, intentional, or wrongful act. Alternatively, the legal proceedings to hold the at-fault party accountable can be initiated by the estate of the deceased.

Wrongful death cases in California are subject to a two-year statute of limitations, meaning surviving family members must initiate legal proceedings within two years from the date of the loved one’s death to be entitled to recover damages.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

Under California law, not everyone is entitled to compensation by filing a wrongful death claim. In order to answer the question, “Who can file a wrongful death claim in California?” it is necessary to look at the relationship of the family members to the deceased person. Generally, the following family members may have standing to file a wrongful death claim in California:

  • The surviving spouse or domestic partner. If the decedent is survived by their spouse, the spouse has a right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party. California law also recognizes a domestic partner’s right to sue for wrongful death even though they were not married to the decedent.

  • Surviving children and stepchildren. If the decedent leaves behind children (adoptive or biological), surviving children may have a legal right to file a wrongful death claim. Stepchildren may also be entitled to compensation if they were financially dependent on their stepparent.

  • Other heirs. Other surviving heirs may also be able to initiate legal action for wrongful death if the decedent does not have a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children.

Often, determining who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim can be tough. In many cases, several heirs may have a right to file a lawsuit and recover damages. That is why a consultation with an attorney may be necessary to discuss the specifics of your case and determine who can file a wrongful death claim in your particular situation.

What Damages Are Recoverable Through a Wrongful Death Claim?

California law recognizes two types of compensatory damages in wrongful death cases:

  1. Economic damages, including funeral and burial costs, the loss of financial support, the loss of benefits, and certain other monetary losses and expenses suffered by the family

  2. Non-economic damages, including the loss of companionship, the loss of guidance and protection, the loss of affection, mental anguish, and others

Until January 1, 2022, California did not allow surviving family members to get compensated for their pain and suffering caused by the death of a loved one. However, legislators changed the law to allow families to seek compensation for pain and suffering damages in wrongful death cases.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

Losing a family member can be disorienting and overwhelming. If you lost a loved one and do not understand what happens next, you might need to seek legal counsel from an experienced wrongful death attorney. Our skilled attorneys at G. Aldrich Law can review your particular case and help you understand if you can file a wrongful death claim and seek recovery. Reach out to our offices in Woodland Hills or Lakeport, California, for assistance during this difficult time.