Losing a family member to negligence is a horrific event that will have lifelong repercussions for the survivors. If you are someone who has lost a loved one, you know the challenges that will lie ahead, including the loss of financial and emotional support given by the deceased. These losses are why families in this situation file wrongful death claims.
You may wonder if any family member can file a wrongful death suit against a responsible party. Generally, not all family members are eligible to sue for a deceased relative. It depends on the kind of relationship involved.
Spouses and children
According to state law, if you are a spouse, child or parent of the deceased, you would be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Even if you had not married the decedent, you would still be able to sue if the two of you were in a domestic partnership. California also determines eligibility by whether you are in the line of intestate succession. This means you would be in line to inherit from the deceased if the person who died had not made out a will.
Family arrangements are not always clear-cut, so you might not know if your situation will allow you to sue for damages. If you depended on the decedent for your livelihood, you may have grounds to file a suit. This could happen if you are a biological child or a stepchild. You may also be a putative spouse to the decedent, which is someone who was in a voidable marriage but believed in good faith that the marriage was legal.
It is also possible for minors that do not have a direct familial connection to a deceased person to file suit. The law qualifies a minor that has spent the last 180 days in the household of the decedent and had a dependency on the deceased for at least half of his or her support. So a variety of arrangements exist that could allow a wrongful death suit to proceed.