When a person or entity causes the death of another person, either intentionally or by neglect, certain family members of the deceased can bring a wrongful death suit against the responsible party under California law. Wrongful death suits provide a way to compensate family members for their loss. However, not all family members can bring such a suit. Only certain family members have this legal right.

Under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60(a), the following people can bring a wrongful death claim:

  • The deceased person’s surviving spouse;
  • The deceased person’s domestic partner;
  • The deceased person’s surviving children; or
  • If there is no surviving person in the deceased person’s line of descent, then a wrongful death lawsuit may be brought by anyone who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession. California intestacy law allows the closest surviving family members to inherit, so depending on what family members survived the decedent, this could be parents, siblings, grandparents, or extended family.

Under Section 377.60(b), parents, putative spouses, and step-children may also bring a wrongful death claim if they were dependent on the deceased person financially. A person that does not fall into one of these classes cannot bring a wrongful death suit.

A wrongful death suit can provide a surviving family member with compensation for lost income, loss of companionship, loss of service, as well as medical and funeral costs. If you would like more information about this issue, or if you have lost a loved one and would like to discuss your options in bringing a wrongful death claim against those responsible, please contact us for more information.

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