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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

By Michael Verna on October 13, 2016

A mother and son in a cemeteryClients are always the first priority for the attorneys of Bowles & Verna. In our years of serving people in Walnut Creek and the greater Bay Area, we have always considered the needs of injury victims and the lives of people who've lost loved ones in tragic accidents.

Wrongful death lawsuits can be quite complicated, and it's important to know who can file these cases and if there are any restrictions to consider. With that in mind, we'd like to consider the basics regarding who can file wrongful death lawsuits.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of legal claim that is filed by the loved ones of a deceased individual. These kinds of cases are filed when a person is killed as a result of another person or party's negligent actions or failure to act.

The lawsuit is intended to compensate the loved ones of the deceased individual because the death of that loved one has led to monetary loss as well as pain and suffering.

Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Only certain individuals linked to the deceased can legally file a wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, wrongful death lawsuits are filed by the following people:

  • The spouse of the deceased
  • The domestic partner of the deceased
  • The surviving children of the deceased

If the deceased's line of descent does not include any living individuals, it is also possible for the parents or siblings of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim.

California law also allows for people financially dependent on the deceased to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes:

  • The putative spouse of the deceased
  • The children of the putative spouse of the deceased
  • The stepchildren of the deceased

Why Are There Restrictions on Who Can File?

The restrictions on who can file a wrongful death lawsuit prevent people without a close connection to the deceased from profiting on that person's death. By keeping these sorts of legal claims within a family or close relations, only the people close to the deceased will be able to receive just compensation for their loss.

Are There Exceptions to Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

There are some exceptions to the above restrictions. If the deceased specifies a representative of his or her estate in a will, that individual may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit depending on the nature of the case. If there are any disputes on who can file a lawsuit or who should file the lawsuit, this can be discussed in greater detail during a legal consultation.

The Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations on when a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. In most cases, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of death of an individual. Failure to file a lawsuit within that timeframe means that a wrongful death suit cannot be pursued. It's always best to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.

How Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help

The loss of a loved one can be an extremely trying and difficult time. By working with an experienced attorney, you can focus on grieving and putting your life back together. Your lawyer will handle the complexities of the legal system so you are free to spend time with your loved ones and support one another. We will offer sound guidance as the lawsuit unfolds.

Learn More About Your Legal Options

For more information about your legal rights in wrongful death lawsuits, be sure to contact our personal injury law firm today. The legal team at Bowles & Verna is here to help you in your time of legal need.

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Walnut Creek Office

2121 N California Blvd
Ste 875
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Open Today 8:30am - 6:00pm

More Info Directions (925) 935-3300