When a person dies in California due to another party’s negligence, certain surviving family members have legal standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Many families undergo significant financial hardship when a loved one passes away, especially if that person was the primary wage earner in the family. While no money can bring a loved one back, responsible parties must be held accountable. Understandably, surviving family members want to know, Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California?
Wrongful death lawsuits are typically rather complicated, especially when someone is trying to understand whether they have a right to pursue a claim or not. Rather than try to interpret California law on wrongful death claims yourself, let the skilled team at The Larsen Firm help. We have decades of experience assisting grieving family members after their loved ones die unexpectedly.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?
California law outlines who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and the order of priority. It’s not uncommon to have multiple parties eligible to file a claim. One or more conflicts of interest can develop if you attempt to have one attorney represent all parties. The answer to this issue is to have a personal representative file for all eligible survivors. If the court awards any compensation, the estate’s personal representative will distribute funds appropriately.
If the decedent was legally married when they died, the surviving spouse would have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California. The same holds true for a registered domestic partner or a “putative” spouse. A putative spouse is someone who relied on the decedent for support and believed they were legally married—only to discover the marriage was void or voidable and ultimately not valid.
Children who lose a biological parent in a personal injury accident can also file a wrongful death claim. Stepchildren have the same rights provided they can show financial dependence on the decedent at the time of death. Any minor who lived with the deceased for a minimum of 180 days before their death and relied on them for at least 50% of their financial support can also make a wrongful death claim.
When a parent loses their minor child or an adult child with no descendants, the surviving parent could bring a lawsuit. If a parent was financially dependent on their child, they could also bring a lawsuit.
California’s intestate succession laws govern probate when someone dies without a will and has no surviving spouse, children, or parents. That means anyone with the right to file a claim for the decedent’s property could also file a wrongful death claim.
What Is the Timeline for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit must be done within a certain amount of time. Failure to file within the legal deadline, called the statute of limitations, means you could lose your right to recovery altogether. Courts are typically not forgiving when you miss the statute of limitations deadline, even when it involves a wrongful death claim.
In general, you typically have two years from the date of death to bring a wrongful death claim. However, this deadline is not absolute. You could wind up having less time to file in some instances. That is why we recommend contacting a California wrongful death lawyer right away. Immediately hiring a lawyer following your loved one’s death is wise, despite what the defendant’s insurance company will lead you to believe.
How a California Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
When building a solid compensation case, you need a skilled lawyer with a history of successfully recovering damages in wrongful death lawsuits. The attorneys at The Larsen Firm have decades of experience helping surviving family members recover compensation after a loved one has passed away. Let us focus on all the challenging legal tasks so you can concentrate on grieving and healing.
When you hire The Larsen Firm to represent you, we will conduct an independent investigation, request all pertinent documentation, speak to any witnesses, and preserve all relevant evidence. We will handle all communication with the defendant’s insurance company and lawyers. You will not need to deal with them when you have a lawyer representing your interests. That means we will negotiate a potential settlement on your family’s behalf.
Should the defendant’s insurance company and legal team become unwilling to negotiate in good faith, we are prepared to take the next steps. That may include filing a wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf and possibly taking the case to trial. Taking a case to trial is a last resort, and we only use it if negotiations fail because the opposition is stubbornly unreasonable. However, rest assured that if we need to take your case to trial, our years of trial experience will serve you very well.
If you have questions on who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California, contact The Larsen Firm today to schedule a consultation.