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Seasoned Sacramento Injury Attorneys

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?


When somebody dies because of another person’s negligence, many people are affected. Although the impact of a wrongful death is extensive, the right to file a wrongful death claim is reserved only for certain people. The laws that govern who is permitted to file a wrongful death claim vary by state. In most states, wrongful death claims can only be filed by family members and the people who were closest to the deceased person. This is true in California as well.

Spouses and Children of the Deceased

If a victim of wrongful death was married and had children at the time of their death, their spouse and children are entitled to file a wrongful death claim. Often, these are the people who are most significantly impacted by a case of wrongful death. Not only do spouses and children suffer from significant emotional distress when wrongful death occurs, they also incur most of the costs associated with the death (such as funeral costs and medical expenses) and are often financially dependent on the deceased person.

Other Family Members

Family members other than the deceased person’s spouse and children can file a wrongful death claim if the victim was not married and did not have children at the time of their death, or if others can demonstrate a significant financial and emotional impact of the victim’s death. In many cases, this will include parents and grandparents. California’s wrongful death laws account for alternative family situations as well, for example, if the deceased person cared for a niece or nephew.

Non-Relatives Who Can File Claims

A person who is not related to the deceased person can file a wrongful death claim under certain circumstances. However, it may be more difficult for non-relatives to qualify as wrongful death claimants.

People who can potentially file a wrongful death claim despite not being related to the deceased person may include friends, a partner who was not married to the victim, or a partner’s children. The claimants will need to demonstrate that they were financially dependent on the deceased person and have suffered from significant economic and emotional losses as a result of the liable party’s negligence.

At Smolich and Smolich, our lawyers are committed to helping the victims of negligence. We can assist you with every aspect of filing a wrongful death claim and recovering compensation. We are available to discuss the details of your case.

Send us a message or call (916) 571-0400 for a free consultation with our attorneys.