The circumstances that lead to someone’s death aren’t always inevitable. Sometimes, they are a reflection of bad decisions or even illegal activity. Not every accidental death or personal tragedy gives rise to legal claims, but sometimes the loss of a loved one means that surviving family members choose to take civil action against someone that they think is responsible.
Under California law, family members may have grounds for a lawsuit if the wrongful or illegal acts of someone or their negligence caused the death of your loved one. Wrongful death claims can help grieving family members recover some of the financial losses they will suffer because of a tragedy. Who has the right to file such claims in California?
Those with intestate succession rights can file a wrongful death claim
Sometimes, people die without having an estate plan in place. These intestate deaths lead to probate proceedings where a judge distributes property in accordance with California state law. The rules related to intestate succession or the transfer of assets to family members in an estate without any planning documents influence wrongful death claims as well.
Intestate succession focuses primarily on the closest relationships of a deceased individual. Spouses and children usually have the right to inheritance before more distant family members. Parents, siblings and other family members can bring claims against someone’s estate if there aren’t closer relationships.
The same is true for wrongful death claims. The primary right goes to spouses, domestic partners and children, although parents, siblings and anyone else with a statutory right to intestate inheritance could file a lawsuit if closer relationships don’t exist.
The civil courts can give your family justice
Although a court ruling can’t undo the harm an individual or business caused your family, it can lessen the lasting impact of your loss. A successful wrongful death lawsuit can provide the family with financial compensation and hold someone responsible for the actions that led to your loved one’s death. Understanding state law is typically the first step toward asserting your statutory rights after a tragedy.