Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

A wrongful death claim can arise in California in the event that a person dies as the result of the negligence or wrongful act of another person or entity. It is a civil lawsuit brought separately from any criminal proceedings that may result from the person’s death. A wrongful death claim can help the loved ones and estate of the deceased recover critical compensation for the losses they have sustained in the wake of their loved one’s death. Only certain parties, however, can bring a wrongful death claim in California.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

A wrongful death claim in California is brought by the survivors of the deceased individual. In a wrongful death claim, as opposed to a criminal action, the fault of the defendant is only expressed through the award of money damages. Should a wrongful death suit prove successful, the court will order the defendant to pay these damages to the decedent’s survivor.

California’s wrongful death statute is very specific as to who is allowed to bring a wrongful death claim in the state. The following people are expressly permitted to bring a wrongful death claim:

  • The surviving spouse of the decedent
  • The domestic partner of the decedent
  • The surviving children of the decedent

Should there be no surviving person in the decedent’s direct line of descent, California law provides that a wrongful death claim can be brought by anyone who would stand to inherit property pursuant to the state’s laws of intestate succession. This may include the decedent’s parents, siblings, and others depending on who is alive at the time of the decedent’s death. Furthermore, a person may be entitled to bring a wrongful death claim should he or she be able to show that there was a financial dependence on the decedent and should he or she be:

  • The putative spouse of the decedent
  • The children of the decedent’s putative spouse
  • The stepchildren of the decedent
  • The parents of the decedent

Should a wrongful death claim prove successful, damages will typically be divided into what will compensate the estate for losses associated with the decedent’s death and what will compensate surviving family members for personal losses suffered due to the decedent’s death. Losses of an estate may include things like funeral and burial expenses as well as medical bills and hospital bills relating to the decedent’s final injury or illness. The estate may also recover lost income and the loss of potential income the decedent would have reasonably been expected to earn had he or she survived. Losses of surviving family members may include the value of household services provided by the deceased as well as the loss of financial support and the loss of love, affection, moral support, and more.

Contact Our Expert Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorneys Today!

Losing a loved one can not only be emotionally devastating, but it can have serious impacts on financial well-being. The loss is felt on so many different levels. Let the Compass Law Group help you recover some of what you have lost. We are here for our clients when they need us most, in the most difficult times life can throw at them. Contact us today.


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