Losing a family member is devastating. The period immediately after the unexpected loss of your loved one may be marked by emotional suffering and financial hardship. Fortunately, you can seek compensation for your losses if the death was a result of someone else’s legal fault. To ensure you make informed decisions and take the right actions, you need to familiarize yourself with the process. Part of this involves learning exactly who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Here’s what you should know.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
When someone dies due to another’s negligent or intentional actions, the deceased’s immediate family members can file a civil suit against the party whose wrongdoing caused the death. This allows the survivors to seek justice on behalf of the victim and obtain financial compensation. This compensation is designed to help alleviate the financial burden associated with the loss.
The damages available in a wrongful death action include:
- Medical expenses incurred due to treatment for any injuries suffered prior to death
- The victim’s pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
- The deceased person’s lost future income
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of love, companionship, and care
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Los Angeles?
In Los Angeles, the legal right to file a wrongful death claim is limited to certain individuals. The eligible plaintiffs must have a special relationship with the deceased person. Before taking legal action following the wrongful death of your loved one, it is crucial to know if you qualify to do so. Below is a list of people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and the general order in which they are eligible.
1. A Surviving Spouse or Domestic Partner
If the decedent was legally married at the time of their death, the surviving spouse will often have the first right to file a suit. In cases where the victim was in a registered domestic partnership, the legal domestic partner will have the capacity to sue for wrongful death. When pursuing compensation, a surviving spouse will represent their own interests as well as act on behalf of any surviving minor children they may have with the deceased. However, a surviving spouse can choose to waive their right of priority to bring a wrongful death action.
2. Children or Issue of the Decedent
If there is no surviving spouse or the victim’s spouse is either unwilling or unable to bring a case, the right to file a suit passes to the children. Any of the deceased’s adult children—both biological and legally adopted children—are allowed to pursue the claim. If the victim’s children are also deceased, the surviving grandchildren can sue.
However, minor children do not have the legal ability to pursue lawsuits in Los Angeles. If the victim is survived by minor children, the statute of limitations will be tolled for them until the minors reach the legal age to file a claim. Alternatively, a guardian appointed by the court may file a suit on behalf of the minors.
3. Dependent Minors
Other minor children who lived with the deceased may have legal standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit even if they were not related to the deceased person. However, in order to qualify, the minor children must have resided in the household for a minimum of six months prior to the death. Also, they should have been dependent on the decedent for at least 50 percent of their financial support.
4. Parties Entitled to the Property by Intestate Succession
If there is no surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children, any other person with the legal right to inherit the decedent’s estate under intestate succession laws can file a claim. In this situation, more distant family members of the deceased—such as grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, nephews, and nieces—will become eligible plaintiffs.
5. The Decedent’s Financial Dependents
In addition to the parties listed above, people who can show that they were financially dependent on the deceased person can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The decedent’s financial dependents may include their putative spouse, children of the putative spouse, the victim’s stepchildren, the deceased person’s parents, and the decedent’s legal guardians (if their biological parents are deceased).
The Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death
The statute of limitations for wrongful death sets the latest time by which a suit must be filed. Generally, eligible plaintiffs must bring a lawsuit against the at-fault party within two years from the date of their loved one’s death. Failure to initiate legal action within the specified period of time will cause you to lose your right to seek compensation. Working with a lawyer will go a long way in ensuring you bring the case before the time limit runs out.
Let a Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawyer Assist You
Do you fall into the category of people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles? Before you take legal action, be sure to consult with a lawyer. An experienced Los Angeles wrongful death attorney will help you navigate the complex legal issues and see to it that you receive just and fair compensation. Speak with one of our compassionate attorneys with a free consultation.