Surviving Family Members’ Rights in a Wrongful Death Claim

by Staff Blogger | May 1st, 2023

When a loved one passes away due to another party’s negligence or intentional actions, it can be devastating for surviving family members. If you are a surviving family member, you can seek compensation for the damages you suffered due to your loved one’s death.

The California wrongful death attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers can help you seek compensation for the loss of your loved one. We will help you pursue a wrongful death claim against the negligent party to receive restitution for the financial, emotional, and psychological harm caused by your family member’s wrongful death.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a legal action taken by the surviving family members of a person who has died due to another party’s negligence or intentional act. The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to seek financial compensation for the loss of the deceased person, including damages such as lost wages, medical expenses, funeral expenses, and emotional pain and suffering.

Wrongful death claims differ from survival actions, where a claim is brought on behalf of the deceased person’s estate for the damages they suffered before their death.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

When a loved one dies due to another person or entity’s negligence or recklessness, it can be a devastating and heartbreaking experience. In California, certain individuals have the right to bring a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for the losses suffered as a result of the death, including:

  • The Surviving Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner

In California, the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner of the deceased is typically given priority to bring a wrongful death claim. California Family Code Section 297 recognizes the special relationship between registered domestic partners and their rights to seek compensation for the losses suffered due to their loved one’s death.

  • Surviving Child or Children

In the absence of a surviving spouse or registered domestic partner, the surviving child or children of the deceased may have the right to bring a wrongful death claim in California.

  • Dependent Minors Living in the Household

Dependent minors, including stepchildren and adopted children, who lived in the household of the deceased at the time of their death and for at least 180 days prior and who depended on the deceased for at least 50% of their monetary support may be able to bring a wrongful death claim.

  • Other Heirs

If no spouse or child survives the deceased, other family members deemed to be heirs under California intestacy laws have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Heirs are legally entitled to inherit the decedent’s property if the deceased died without a will.

  • Next of Kin

If no relatives entitled to the deceased’s property exist, then any of the victim’s next of kin are eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

What Types of Damages are Possible in a Wrongful Death Claim in California

In California, the damages in a wrongful death case compensate heirs for the support they could have expected to receive from the deceased if they had lived.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are calculable losses related to your loved one’s death, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Loss of income and future earnings potential
  • Loss of investments and financial support

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are for intangible losses, including:

  • Loss of companionship
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of guidance from a loved one
  • Loss of sexual intimacy
  • The pain, suffering, or disfigurement your loved one suffered before their death

Allocating damages among eligible family members in a wrongful death case is typically done through apportionment. Apportionment ensures that the damages are allocated fairly among eligible family members based on their individual circumstances and losses.

Settlements in these cases can be paid out as a lump sum or a structured settlement with payments made over time.

Discuss Your Situation with a California Wrongful Death Attorney 

A personal injury attorney from Berg Injury Lawyers can represent your interests as a surviving family member in a wrongful death claim. Your attorney will help you navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and provide valuable legal guidance and support.

Our experienced attorneys will help secure the financial compensation you deserve for your losses. Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.