Who Can Bring A Wrongful Death Lawsuit? | CA Probate Code
- October 5, 2020 - Wrongful Death,
Lawyers who represent clients in wrongful death lawsuits have challenges unlike those encountered in regular civil litigation. Our work environment is a blend of respect and empathy for great human suffering tied to our professional obligation to represent our clients to the best of our ability.
Over the years I’ve represented decedent’s estates, spouses, parents, children, and siblings in wrongful death actions. These actions are complex and become particularly so when families are divided and file separate actions. While complex, there are legal mechanisms to advance all of these cases to resolution.
Our news is full of tragedies. And, some of these tragedies involve some very well-known wrongful death cases. We can look at Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against the company that owns the helicopter that crashed and killed Vanessa’s husband, Kobe, and daughter Gianna. A number of significant safety failures have been identified in the lawsuit.
At least five employees of supermarket chains that died of coronavirus likely caught on the frontlines of the chains have sued the companies that employed the decedents. George Floyd’s family filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and its four officers following Floyd’s death. Breonna Taylor’s wrongful death lawsuit was settled for $12 million. All of these cases have been brought by family members.
Laws vary from state to state. California’s statute addressing who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit is clear. A personal representative can bring a cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another. California Probate Code Section 58 (a) provides that a “’Personal representative’ means executor, administrator, administrator with the will annexed, special administrator, successor personal representative, public administrator … or a person who performs substantially the same function under the law of another jurisdiction governing the person’s status.”
California law identifies other persons who may assert a wrongful death cause of action as
“The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession. If the parents of the decedent would be entitled to bring an action under this subdivision, and the parents are deceased, then the legal guardians of the decedent, if any, may bring an action under this subdivision as if they were the decedent’s parents.”
There are other qualifications. It is not unusual that divided families file separate wrongful death actions. These cases are often consolidated and the distribution of any verdict or settlement can be divided among the heirs by a settlement agreement or by the Court’s allocation. We know that the survivors of wrongful death victims have many issues to consider. And, we’re happy to talk with you about these issues.
If you have questions about California wrongful death actions, call us at Hackard Law (916) 313-3030 or visit our website at hackardlaw.com.
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