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Who can file a wrongful death claim?

To file a lawsuit for wrongful death you must be directly impacted by the death. The main criteria are that you had a stake in the deceased person’s finances or property.

One of the unfortunate realities of a wrongful death lawsuit is that the action is essentially financial. We know that there is no true compensation for your emotional pain, but you can ease the financial burden.

California law has specific parameters for who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you are direct family member, you’ll have the easiest time filing a wrongful death suit claim, as the impact on your life is obvious. This includes:

  • Spouses or domestic partners. As a spouse, you have a wide range of damages to explore given the interdependent nature of marriage.
  • Children. This can include stepchildren as well, depending on the relationship and financial ties. The damages children can seek vary based on how financially dependent they were on the deceased parent, but California law allows all children to bring a wrongful death claim in California.

In addition to spouses, domestic partners and children, the following may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit according to California law:

  • Putative spouse
  • Children of a putative spouse
  • Parents
  • Other minor dependents of the deceased

The California statute is clear on who can file a wrongful death suit. You must have ties to the deceased party, and be able to prove how the death caused a financial hardship. However, even if you don't believe you fit the above criteria, it may be beneficial to consult with an attorney to explore your options.

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