If someone you love died in a tragic accident or because of a violent crime, your family may have grounds for legal action. Should you choose to proceed with a wrongful death claim, however, only certain individuals are entitled to file it.
In the state of California, tort law recognizes the following plaintiffs in wrongful death suits:
1. The Deceased’s Surviving Spouse
If the victim was your husband, wife, putative spouse, or domestic partner, you likely have the right to sue for damages. As long as you can gather sufficient evidence of both liability and losses, you should be able to pursue compensation for the following:
- Lost income and benefits;
- Loss of household services;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Medical bills incurred prior to the deceased’s passing;
- Loss of any anticipated inheritances; and
- The loss of affection, companionship, guidance, love, moral support, protection, and training.
2. The Deceased’s Surviving Children or Dependents
Both biological and adoptive children may take action following the wrongful death of a parent. In most cases, stepchildren who depended on the deceased financially are also eligible claimants.
It’s worth noting that minors who lived with the victim for at least 180 days prior to the accident and relied on them for at least half of their financial support may have a stake in the proceedings, as well. This is true even if they are not considered children of the deceased in the eyes of the law.
3. The Deceased’s Surviving Parents
When it comes to wrongful death claimants, there is somewhat of a hierarchy. Generally speaking, parents cannot sue following the death of an adult child unless he or she has no descendants; however, parents who were financially dependent on the deceased are entitled to bring a claim, as are those who lost a minor child.
4. Other Rightful Heirs
If the deceased has no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the laws of intestate succession will determine who’s eligible to sue for damages. These laws identify those who have a claim to someone’s property when they die without a will.
As you may have guessed, it’s not uncommon for multiple parties to have grounds for legal action following a wrongful death. Since the associated claims can become unwieldy if filed individually, it’s advisable for the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to step in.
This party, who is either named in the victim’s will or by a judge, can file a lawsuit on behalf of all eligible beneficiaries. Should the case result in a payout, the funds are distributed appropriately according to the extent that each survivor suffered as a result of the death.
Speak with a Long Beach Wrongful Death Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If your loved one died at the hands of someone else, whether directly or indirectly, and you want to discuss your legal rights in regard to damages, consult the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. Our compassionate team will not rest until we’ve exhausted all possible avenues of compensation on your family’s behalf. Call (562) 206-1939 or fill out our Online Contact Form to set up a free, no obligation consultation with a wrongful death lawyer in Long Beach.