There are a few different criteria a person must meet to file a wrongful death lawsuit. It is not a situation where anyone can bring a case to court simply because they know someone who died due to the negligence of another person.
California Courts explain that there is a statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations is a period in which a person can file a claim and once that set time limit is over, he or she loses the right to file.
For a wrongful death claim, people may file a case anytime within the two years after the death. The timer begins when the person dies. This is important, especially in cases where the death comes long after the incident that led to the injuries.
There are some exceptions. If the liable party is a government agency, then people only have six months to make a claim. There is also the potential for the statute of limitations to pause, such as if the only person who can make a claim is under the age of 18, not mentally sound to bring a claim or incarcerated.
California Legislative Information states that people only have a claim for wrongful death if the death occurred because of a neglectful or wrongful action of another person or entity. Even then, those trying to make a claim must have a close relationship with the person who dies.
In general, spouses get first claim rights, followed by children, parents and siblings. Only people who had a financial dependence on the deceased may make a claim and seek damages.