Who can file a Wrongful Death Claim?

The California Code of Civil Procedure provides for certain heirs to file for a wrongful death action on their own behalf for the victim’s death. Those persons are the following:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Children
  • Issue of deceased children
  • Putative spouse
  • Children of the putative spouse
  • Stepchildren
  • Parents

CCP § 377.60

“(a) The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.

(b) Whether or not qualified under subdivision (a), if they were dependent on the decedent, the putative spouse, children of the putative spouse, stepchildren, or parents. As used in this subdivision, “putative spouse” means 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.”

However, according to case law, unmarried persons living together but are not registered domestic partners may not be able to qualify as a wrongful death claimant for the death of the partner.

Holguin v. Flores (2004):

“Past decisions have found numerous reasons for concluding the state has a rational basis for denying members of unmarried couples the right to sue for a member’s wrongful death.
It has been held, for example, denying a cause of action for wrongful death to members of unmarried couples furthers “the state’s substantial interest in promoting and protecting marriage.” ”

To be better informed about the legal standing or qualification of a person who may file a wrongful death claim, consult with a lawyer who is an expert in personal injury cases.

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