Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?


When a person dies as a result of the negligent or wrongful acts of another in California, the family members and dependents who are left behind often suffer not just emotional devastation but financial loss. Even if the offending party who caused the death is criminally charged, the family members are not compensated by the criminal courts. Instead it is generally up to those survivors to seek compensation for their losses through a wrongful death action, which is a private lawsuit brought in the civil courts by attorneys acting on behalf of those individuals.

Eligibility to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California

There are two major aspects of determining eligibility to bring a wrongful death lawsuit: 1) whether the defendant’s actions are potentially grounds for a wrongful death action; and 2) whether the person seeking recovery is an eligible plaintiff.

With regard to the first issue, there are potential grounds for a wrongful death action whenever a person acts in a way that is unreasonable compared to a typical reasonable person in society, and that action results in the foreseeable death of another. Common situations in which a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought include violent assaults that result in death, workplace accidents, vehicular accidents, and any other careless, unreasonable, or intentional act that results in death.

With regard to the second issue of who can bring a wrongful death suit, California law focuses on people who relied on the deceased victim for financial and emotional support. Thus, wrongful death plaintiffs in California could include:

  • Spouses
  • Minor children including adopted children and stepchildren
  • Adult children who depended on the deceased financially
  • Parents and siblings who depended on the deceased financially
  • Domestic partners

Damages Recoverable in a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit

California allows plaintiffs in wrongful death lawsuits to recover financially for their losses relating to the victim’s death in the following areas:

  • The loss of emotional support that the family member would have received from the victim had he or she lived the rest of his or her natural life
  • The financial support that the victim would have provided the plaintiff over the course of his or her natural life had the death not occurred (this is often the largest aspect of a wrongful death recovery)
  • The loss of household services provided by the victim (e.g. the cost of having an in-home caregiver, etc.)
  • The costs of funeral and burial
  • Any losses that the victim suffered prior to death as a result of the defendant’s actions, such as pain and suffering and medical costs

Contact a Ventura County Wrongful Death Attorney Today

The wrongful death attorneys at Johnson Moore in Thousand Oaks, California are dedicated to helping those in our community who have lost loved ones due to the negligent and/or wrongful acts of others. Our attorneys follow through on that commitment by doing everything we can to successfully pursue maximum compensation for our clients through pursuit of a sizable settlement or verdict. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation so that we can begin the process of building your case for wrongful death recovery against all liable parties.

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