Losing someone you love and treasure can be both painful and sad. It’s even more agonizing when another person caused their demise. Under California law, the following people have the legal standing to bring a claim of wrongful death:
-The spouse of the deceased
-The domestic partner of the deceased (if the domestic partnership was registered)
-The children of the deceased
-The stepchildren of the deceased (if they were dependent for support upon the deceased)
-The grandchildren of the deceased (if their parent, the child of the deceased, is no longer living)
-The siblings of the deceased (if the deceased had no surviving children)
-The parents of the deceased (if they were dependent for support upon the deceased)
-The relatives who stood to inherit from the deceased (if the deceased left no will)
-Any dependent minor who lived with the deceased for over 180 days before the wrongful death occurred (providing the minor was dependent on the deceased for at least half of his/her support)
-The personal representative of the estate of the deceased (for example, an executor), on behalf of the people listed above.
So to answer your question, yes, an unmarried partner may sue, as long as she/he had a domestic partnership with the deceased, duly registered in California’s statewide registry.
California law also stipulates that the only people who may enter into a domestic partnership are same-sex couples who are over 18 (or have obtained a court order granting permission), and heterosexual couples in which at least one partner is at least 62 years old.
Additionally, the unmarried partner may not bring a lawsuit separate from others who have a claim — all potential claims must be joined in a single legal action.
A final category of persons entitled to file a claim in a wrongful death case is a “putative spouse.” The California Code of Civil Procedure defines that as “the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid.” So, even if the surviving putative spouse was technically not married to the deceases, she/he as well as their children, stepchildren, and/or parents are qualified to sue.