A wrongful death
is when a person dies due to the negligence or fault of another person or entity. If you are legally related to the deceased, you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf under California laws.
A lawsuit serves many purposes when filed after the loss of a dear one. It serves as a way to obtain justice and the hold the negligent party accountable. At the same time, a lawsuit is also a way for the dependents of the deceased to obtain financial security.
California has a specific set of laws
which govern wrongful death lawsuits. These laws also specify which relatives of a victim can file a lawsuit, and under what conditions. Here’s a look at these.
People Entitled to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
As a general rule, the law first entitles the closest relatives and financial dependents of the deceased. These have the first priority in filing a lawsuit. If that is not viable, relatives who are no immediate but still financially dependent on the victim can also file a suit. There are also exceptions to this, for instance if the deceased has nominated a legal heir.
The spouse of the deceased individual typically has the first right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. California law defines spouse as a legal partner, domestic partner or putative spouse of the deceased. The general requirement is that the spouse must have been financially dependent on the deceased at the time of the death.
The children of the deceased can also file a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of their parent. If the children of the victim have deceased, their grandchildren also have the right to file the lawsuit. In addition, stepchildren who can show that they financially depended on the victim can also file the claim. Finally, any other minor children who can prove that they relied on the deceased for at least 50% of their financial support and had lived for at least 180 days with the deceased before the death also have the right to file a claim.
If you lose a child, whether minor or adult, with no children of their own, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. You also have the legal right to file this claim if you, as a parent, were financially dependent on the child at the time of their death.
California law allows anyone who is entitled to the property of the deceased ‘by intestate succession’ to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes the siblings of the deceased as well. If you have lost a sibling in wrongful death, you can file the lawsuit on two conditions: you were living with the deceased at the time; you were financially dependent on the deceased.
Other Legal Heirs
If someone dies in a wrongful death incident, and they had nominated their legal heir before this, this heir is entitled to filing a wrongful death claim. The legal heir is one who inherits the estate of the deceased person.
In some cases, multiple parties and relatives of the deceased may claim to be the legal heirs. When this is the case, things can become complicated. A standard way of resolving this conflict is to allow the designated personal representative of the deceased person’s estate to file a claim.
The representative, in consultation with a judge, then determines the percentage of the expected settlement for each of the claimants. Once a settlement is reached, the representative is also responsible for distributing the damages, in accordance with the agreed percentage, among all the claimants.
Finding a Reliable Wrongful Death Attorney in Orange County
If you have lost a loved one to a wrongful death incident in Orange County, you need legal help before you can file a lawsuit. As shown above, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by several parties and conflicting interests may complicate the situation. When this is the case, a good wrongful death attorney can simplify things, lay out how to proceed with the lawsuit, and help resolve conflict between the interested parties.
Here at Crockett Law Group, we specialize in handling wrongful death lawsuits. We understand that losing a loved one is a time for grief. This is why we try to sort out all the legal complexities of the lawsuit on our own without bothering you too much. Contact us today
to discuss your wrongful death claim with our attorneys.