In California, a wrongful death lawsuit is brought under California Code of Civil Procedure $377.60. These actions are made because someone you love was killed by someone else, usually through that person’s negligence or reckless act. Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit though. Here, you learn who can in the State of California file a wrongful death action and how that differs from who in California can file a survival action, which is an action brought under California Code of Civil Procedure $377.30.

Who can file a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

In California, it is usually the personal representative of the decedent’s estate who files a wrongful death action. If the personal representative of the decedent’s estate does not file an action, however, then the following persons can:

  • The surviving spouse;
  • Any children — natural or adopted, and either minors or dependent adult children; and
  • Other dependent family members (e.g., parents who were dependent on the decedent).

Only one wrongful death claim can be filed, so all interested parties must file under the same claim.

For example, imagine the decedent was an Uber driver and was struck by a truck driver and killed immediately.  The decedent leaves behind a minor child and a spouse. Both were dependent on the decedent’s income. Additionally, the spouse was dependent on the marital relationship while the child was dependent on the decedent’s guidance. They both have economic and non-economic damages that should be compensated. Together, they file a wrongful death claim, and each of their claims will be considered.

Who can file a Survival Action in California?

In contrast to the wrongful death claim, only the estate’s personal representative can file a survival action. In lieu of an appointed personal representative, then it would be the decedent’s successor-in-interest. Family members cannot file survival actions. That doesn’t mean that as heirs to the estate they will not receive compensation after a settlement or award is rendered.

Additionally, survival actions are only brought in cases where the decedent did not die immediately. For example, the decedent may have been in a car accident that put him in a coma. It wasn’t until 3 or 4 months later that he or she actually died. During that time, the decedent accrues lost wages, medical expenses, among other expenses that all are attributed to his or her estate. As such, upon the death of the decedent, those claims survive and can be fought for via a survival action. Indeed, they should be fought for because payment for medical expenses and the like will come out of the estate, and whatever comes out of the estate is indirectly taken from the heirs of the estate.

Where can you seek legal help to make sure you file the appropriate action?

If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s fault, then you may be entitled to file a claim for compensation. In California, if you are a family member, you can only file a claim for compensation via a wrongful death action. At Ledger Law Firm, we are here to help you. Contact our office today to appoint a free consultation. We will discuss your case and review your options with you. No one should feel alone during these hards time, and everyone should receive their fair and just compensation according to the circumstances. So do not wait, call today.