If you lost a loved one due to the negligent, careless or reckless actions of another individual, California law allows you to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit is separate from criminal proceedings, and the same defendant in a criminal trial may also stand as a respondent in a civil court. Wrongful death lawsuits are similar to personal injury suits in that the plaintiffs may recover monetary compensation for their losses. However, in a wrongful death suit, a representative files and recovers on the victim’s behalf. FindLaw explores who may serve as a representative in a California wrongful death claim.
Per the state’s statutes, one of several individuals may file a wrongful death claim. The decedent’s surviving spouse, children, and domestic partner are the most obvious claimants. However, if the deceased has no such survivors, or if said survivors do not wish to file a suit, certain dependents of the decedent may also file. Those include putative spouses, children of putative spouses, parents or step-children. A putative spouse, by legal definition, refers to a surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who trusted that the union to the deceased was legitimate.
If a minor lived with the decedent for the 180 days leading up the decedent’s death, he or she may also recover via a wrongful death suit. However, the minor must prove that he or she relied on the deceased for one-half or more of financial support.
This article should not be used as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.