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Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California?

You may hear news reports regarding wrongful death lawsuits in Kern County and wonder exactly who benefits from such action. After all, the decedent is no longer around to benefit from the money, and no amount of compensation can truly make up for the loss felt by his or her family. Yet in most cases, the amounts awarded in wrongful death cases are simply meant to fill the financial void left by the decedent. As a wrongful death action is typically filed on behalf of the decedent, compensation earned from such action is awarded to his or her estate, which is managed by a personal representative or executor. Given this connection, you may wonder exactly who can initiate a wrongful death lawsuit?

Because wrongful death awards are treated as part of one’s estate, most states only allow a personal representative to file such a lawsuit. California is a bit different, however. Aside from granting this privilege to personal representatives, the California Code of Civil Procedure states that the following parties may also initiate such action:

  •          A surviving spouse or domestic partner
  •          A decedent’s children
  •          The issue of a decedent’s children
  •          Anyone entitled to the decedent’s property according to the state’s policy for intestate succession

If you were the putative spouse of one who was killed due to the negligence of another, you and your children may also file a wrongful death lawsuit on his or behalf (the state recognizes you as a putative spouse if yours was a voidable marriage). Any minor children living with your loved one and relying on his or her support for at least 180 days prior to his or her death may also bring a wrongful death action. 

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