Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California

It’s never easy to cope with the death of a loved one. It is traumatic and can throw your whole life in disarray. And when your loved one’s death resulted from another’s negligence, the death is even more brutal to accept.

When another’s negligence kills someone you love, California law permits you to bring a wrongful death claim.

However, not everyone can file a claim, even if they are family members. The law restricts who can bring a wrongful death claim in California.

At Silva Injury Law, our kind and understanding wrongful death attorneys can help you during this stressful and difficult time.

We will evaluate your case and determine the appropriate steps to take. Contact us to learn how we can help you get justice for your loved one.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Losing a loved one can leave you in an emotional whirlwind and financial disaster. You can’t get used to being without that person’s love, guidance, and smile.

The cost of burying your loved one, paying for the funeral, and no longer leaning on them for their financial contribution can take a serious toll on your finances. 

We understand that no amount of money can ever bring back your loved one. But a wrongful death claim can help ease the financial burden family members face after the death of a loved one.

A wrongful death claim is a civil action family members can file against the person or organization whose negligence caused the loved one’s death.

Compensation from a wrongful death claim is meant to compensate the family for their loss. It is not meant to compensate the deceased individual for the wrong done to them. This is a separate claim called a survival action.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

Section 377.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedures lists who can sue for wrongful death in California. It is essential to know if you are included in the list. If you are not, then your claim will be denied. The following individuals can file a wrongful death claim against the negligent party.

Surviving Spouses 

A surviving spouse can file a wrongful death claim for their deceased spouse. The requirement is that they were legally married to the deceased at the time the deceased passed away. 

Putative spouses might also be able to file a claim for wrongful death. Under this section of the law, a putative spouse is defined as the surviving spouse who believed that their marriage was valid and legal, but the marriage was actually void or voidable.

For example, suppose Andy was married to Beatrice for two years. But Andy’s divorce from his first wife, Deanna, was not finalized. Andy and Beatrice’s marriage is void because he was still legally married to Deanna.

However, because Beatrice believed she was married to Andy in good faith, she is the putative spouse and can file a wrongful death claim if Andy dies in an incident due to another’s negligence.

Domestic Partners

Domestic partners can also file a wrongful death claim under California law. The domestic partner and the decedent must be registered as domestic partners under California law.


If the decedent had children, their children could also file a wrongful death claim for their parent’s death. Stepchildren and children of the putative spouse can also file a wrongful death claim.


Sometimes, the children may have already died. If so, a grandchild can file a wrongful death claim for their deceased grandparent if their parent has already passed.

For example, suppose John has an adult child named Carol. Carol has a daughter named Jane, John’s granddaughter. Jane died ten years ago. John dies in a car accident due to the driver’s negligence. Because John’s child is deceased, Jane can bring the wrongful death claim.


The decedent’s parents, or legal guardian if the parents are deceased, can also bring a wrongful death claim.


Certain minors can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. They must meet the following criteria:

  • They must have lived in the decedent’s household for at least 180 days before the decedent’s death, and 
  • They must have been dependent on the decedent for at least one-half of their support. 

For example, suppose the 12-year-old nephew of the decedent has lived with the decedent since the death of their parents four years ago. The decedent took care of their nephew and supported him financially.

Under California law, the nephew can file a wrongful death claim for the decedent because they lived with the decedent at least 180 days before their death and relied on the decedent for more than half their support.

Other Individuals

It may be possible that other relatives, such as siblings or aunts and uncles, can bring a wrongful death claim. It’s best to contact a wrongful death attorney.

At Silva Injury Law, our wrongful death attorneys can help you understand your legal standing to bring a wrongful death claim.

Why Do You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney?

Wrongful death claims are complicated. The opposing side will try to counter the negligence claim. And they may contest your right to bring the claim. You need an experienced wrongful death attorney on your side.

At Silva Injury Law, you’ll get results. We give each client individualized attention and a legal strategy catered to their case. We will do the following:

  • Investigate the events that led to your loved one’s death;
  • Gather evidence;
  • Interview witnesses;
  • File documents with the court;
  • Negotiate with the other side; and
  • Represent you at trial, if necessary.

We want you to relax and take time to heal from your loss. We’ll take care of the rest.

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Like all states, California sets a time limit on filing wrongful death claims. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. California’s wrongful death statute of limitations is two years. This deadline starts the day your loved one died, not necessarily the day of the negligent act that caused their death.

 You can no longer file a wrongful death claim once this two-year deadline passes absent a few exceptions. Thus, contacting a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible is imperative so you don’t forfeit your claim.

Share Your Story with a California Wrongful Death Lawyer: Let’s Talk About Your Case

At Silva Injury Law, the well-being of our clients is our priority. We understand how insurance companies operate. We will utilize all our resources to hold negligent parties accountable for the death of your loved one. 

Our attorneys have been honored with recognitions by different organizations, including the following:

  • The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40;
  • SuperLawyers.com Rising Stars; and
  • Best Lawyers Ones to Watch.

We won’t ask for any compensation upfront. We don’t get paid unless you get paid. That’s how we operate: on a contingency basis. Contact us now for a free consultation with one of our seasoned wrongful death attorneys.