The California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 377.60, defines the people who can benefit from a wrongful death case. They are, more or less in order of precedence, the surviving spouse or domestic partner*, the children, and grandchildren of the victim. If there are no surviving relatives of this description, then the person on people who would normally inherit under the deceased person’s will could bring a wrongful death lawsuit, in the following order: Parents, whether or not they were dependent; siblings or children of deceased siblings; grandparents;and children of a deceased spouse. If none of these relatives exist, then the next of kin may file a wrongful death suit.
A wrongful death victim’s personal representative can also bring a wrongful death action on behalf of the individuals listed above. A personal representative is a person appointed by the probate court to handle the wrongful death victim’s assets, or estate. When proceeds are received from the wrongful death suit, they may be distributed by the personal representative according to the wrongful death statute.
Problems arise when there are more than one dependent or relatives who are entitled to bring a wrongful death claim and only one of them wants to do so. In these cases, it is sometimes necessary to bring the matter to a court’s attention prior to the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit. In other cases, the parties can amicably agree on the way to handle the situation.
Posted in: Wrongful Death