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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

The loss of a loved one due to an accident can be devastating, particularly if you believe it could have been prevented. Family and friends often have many unanswered questions about what to do next.

In some cases, you may be able to obtain compensation for your loss through a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death occurs when a person is killed as a result of the negligence or misconduct of another person, company, or entity.

In California, wrongful death statutes allow family members to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. However, when there are many surviving loved ones or complicated family relationships, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who is entitled to bring the suit.

As San Diego injury attorneys, we are also often asked if domestic partners are entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. The answer is yes. Under California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 377.60, the victim’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, or grandchildren may assert an action. Under the statute, “domestic partner” means a person who, at the time of the decedent’s death, was the domestic partner of the decedent in a registered domestic partnership.

If there are no surviving relatives, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession may bring the lawsuit. The decedent’s personal representative—the person appointed to settle their estate—may also bring the wrongful death action on the family members’ behalf.