Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In many wrongful death claims, a wide range of people may be able to file suit. Ultimately, the law requires that everyone who may have a legitimate claim, must be named in the wrongful death suit either as a plaintiff (this is the name of the person who sues), or as an involuntary defendant. According to California civil code, people who have legitimate claim, include: The surviving spouse or domestic partner; Any children of the deceased; Any person(s) who would be entitled to the property of the deceased, as if he or she did not have a will (intestate succession)*; Individuals dependent on the deceased including a putative spouse, the children of the putative spouse, stepchildren or parents of the deceased; A minor, if that minor had resided with the person for 180 days in the person’s home and was dependent on the person for at least half of his/her support; The decedent’s personal representative on behalf of those authorized to bring the suit.
Who Qualifies as Wrongful Death Victims?
A wrongful death must be able to be proven as a result of a wrongful act or negligence of another. There are a few instances where a victim does not qualify under the wrongful death statute in California.
The death of an unborn child or fetus is such an instance and is not actionable in California under its wrongful death law. The California Supreme Court has held that, “A fetus is not a person within the meaning of our wrongful death statute until there has been a live birth”. Death from a justifiable homicide is another instance where the victim’s family would be prevented from bringing a wrongful death action.
Deaths that are a result of suicide may still qualify as a wrongful death. When the responsible party owed a duty of care to the victim and a lack of care substantially contributed to the suicide, the family of the victim may be able to successfully file a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Fault & Recovery
Even if your loved one contributed to causing the wrongful death in some way or you believe he or she may have contributed to causing the accident that caused the wrongful death, this does not bar you from recovering for the wrongful death in the state of California. California operates under the pure comparative fault rule. This means that the plaintiff will still recover damages after his or her percentage of fault has been deducted, even if the plaintiff was 99 percent at fault.
Even if you believe that your loved one may have contributed to the accident that caused the wrongful death, it is still a good idea to consult with an attorney. An attorney can help determine who is truly at fault by uncovering facts surrounding the circumstances of the wrongful death and help to maximize your recovery.
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