Losing a loved one is a very difficult experience. This grief can turn into anger if someone else’s negligent actions are responsible for your loved one’s death. In these situations, you may be able to hold the at-fault party accountable by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against him or her in civil court. Under California law, however, only certain parties are eligible to file a wrongful death claim on a deceased person’s behalf.
Eligible Representatives in California Wrongful Death Lawsuits
According to California’s wrongful death statute, a wrongful death is caused by the legal fault of another person or entity. A wrongful death may occur due to acts of medical malpractice in Bakersfield, negligence, or intentional acts, including crimes. You can pursue criminal charges and a civil wrongful death claim at the same time.
The following people may file a wrongful death lawsuit in California civil court.
- The deceased person’s surviving spouse or domestic partner
- The deceased person’s surviving children
- The grandchildren of any deceased child of the deceased person
If the following individuals can prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased, they may also file a wrongful death claim.
- The deceased person’s parents
- The deceased person’s stepchildren
- The deceased person’s legal guardians, if his or her parents are deceased
- The deceased’s putative spouse, or an individual who had the good faith but mistaken belief that he or she and the deceased were legally married
If no surviving person is available to file a lawsuit in the deceased’s line of descent, additional rules apply. In these situations, any person who would be entitled to inherit the property of the deceased may file the claim.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
California law also restricts the length of time that you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The statute of limitations establishes a filing deadline for certain types of claims, and if you file after the appropriate date, the court will almost certainly dismiss the case.
You have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California civil court. While there are some exceptions to this rule, they are not always applicable in wrongful death cases. To identify your appropriate deadline and protect your family’s right to recovery, speak to a Bakersfield personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Speak to a California Wrongful Death Lawyer
Wrongful death litigation can be complex and difficult to navigate, and if you plan on filing a lawsuit, you need an attorney on your side. A California wrongful death lawyer can provide valuable benefits to your claim, including the following.
- The ability to assess your family’s damages and accurately calculate your settlement value
- Negotiation skills to handle discussions with other attorneys and insurance companies, if applicable
- Access to expert witnesses who can testify on your behalf, such as medical professionals and accident reconstruction specialists
- Knowledge of the California court system and the various steps, requirements, and processes you need to reach a settlement
A California wrongful death lawyer will have the experience, skills, and resources necessary to guide you and your family through each stage of the litigation process. As soon as you are able, contact an attorney to discuss your next steps.