To make a claim in a wrongful death lawsuit, you have to have a close relationship with the person who died. Usually, this means the person helped support you or take care of you. In some cases, it simply means you had close blood or legal ties.
When the court awards damages in such a case, it will divide those among the people who brought the case. The U.S. Department of Justice explains that the relationship you have with the victim will determine how much of the wrongful death damages you will receive.
If you are the spouse, you will always receive the largest portion of any damages. Regardless of who else may be involved in the lawsuit, you will get half of any damages the court orders.
One exception is if there is more than one child. In that case, you will get one-third, and the remaining will be divided between the children. Another exception is if there are no other relatives. That situation would mean you receive the whole awarded amount from the court.
If the person had no spouse, then the deceased’s children will get the full damage award in equal amounts.
No spouse or children
If the person has no spouse and no children, the next in line would be his or her parents. The parents get the entire award.
The disbursement of wrongful death damages in California will follow the same general rules as inheritance laws in the state with tiers of people who will receive the award based on the relationship to the person who died.