All fifty states have some form of wrongful death statute. California’s law is contained in § 377.60 of the Code of Civil Procedure. California’s wrongful death law allows surviving family members to recover damages when a loved one has died as the result of someone else’s wrongful act, which could be negligent, reckless, or intentional.
Courts are reshaping wrongful death statutes to reflect modern realities such as single-sex marriage. Colorado allows two unmarried people to sign a document stating that both have different legal rights, including the right to be the beneficiary of a wrongful death claim. Michigan’s wrongful death statute lists devisees in the will of a deceased as persons who have standing to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit. This law, therefore, permits a will’s beneficiary as someone who may benefit from a wrongful death claim similarly to any other family member listed in the statute, although the devisee may not be a family member or blood relative.
Wrongful death damages are intended to compensate family members and heirs for the value of the support they could reasonably have expected to receive from the deceased if he or she had lived. These compensatory damages may include both economic and non-economic losses.
Wrongful acts that may be the subject of a wrongful death action include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents,
- Pedestrian accidents,
- “Slip-and-fall” accidents,
- Boating accidents,
- Assault and battery,
- Medical malpractice
- Murder or manslaughter,
- Child abuse or neglect, and
- Elder abuse or neglect.
The following is a list of those individuals who have standing to bring a wrongful death action:
- Surviving Spouse
The most obvious person with standing is, of course, the surviving spouse of the decedent.
- Domestic Partner
A domestic partner is a person who, at the time of the decedent’s death, was the domestic partner of the decedent in a registered domestic partnership established in accordance with applicable California law.
- Children or, if deceased, their Issue
Children of the deceased have standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- If no surviving issue, those entitled to inherit by intestate succession
This applies to the decedent’s grandchildren if the deceased person’s children are also deceased.
The parents of a minor child may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Parents entitled to inherit by intestate succession may also have standing.
- The Decedent’s Personal Representative
The personal representative of the deceased inherently has a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Legal Guardian
If the deceased is a minor child whose parents are deceased, his or her legal guardian may bring a wrongful death action.
- Putative Spouse
A putative spouse is the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid. A putative spouse who is dependent upon the deceased may file a wrongful death claim.
- A Minor
Any minor who, at the time of the decedent’s death, resided for the previous 180 days in the decedent’s household and was dependent on the decedent for one-half or more of the minor’s support has standing to bring a wrongful death action.
Maison law’s years of representing clients in all types of personal injury cases, including wrongful death and survival actions, gives the firm extensive knowledge and experience litigating and settling personal injury matters. Maison Law passionately provides skilled representation and effective advocacy on behalf of all our clients. If you have any questions about any type of personal injury matter, call Maison Law and Martin Gasparian today. The experience of Maison Law helps us provide skilled, zealous representation on behalf of every client. Call Maison Law 24/7 at (559) 203-3333.