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Who Can File for Wrongful Death Without a Spouse and Kids?

Typically, when a wrongful death occurs, a spouse or children will file a lawsuit against the responsible party.

However, when the person who passed away has no spouse or children, it can become a little less clear as to who, if anybody, has the legal right to file the lawsuit.

If you are looking to file a wrongful death lawsuit due to the death of a loved one, but you don’t know if you’re legally allowed to, then learning all about the law and contacting a personal injury attorney to help you are going to give you some peace of mind during this tough time.

What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs when one person dies because of negligence or a wrongful act of another person. One of the survivors (usually heirs) of the person who died or a personal representative of the person’s estate could bring about a wrongful death claim in a civil lawsuit.

Some of the most common types of wrongful death cases involve car, semi-truck and pedestrian accidents, work accidents, medical malpractice and product defects. When a wrongful death case if filed, a defendant will be named. The defendant could be a person, business or government entity.

For example, someone may have been driving drunk and killed another person. In this wrongful death case, the defendant would be the drunk driver.  Others may have contributed, and immediate investigation into any wrongful death case is important.

If a person was driving when their defective tire suddenly blew out and they crashed into a tree and died, then the defendant might be the tire company.

If a person was walking on the sidewalk when a city bus suddenly struck and killed them, then the city may be responsible for the incident.

Keep in mind that since a wrongful death case is civil, it’s going to be separate from a criminal case. For example, in the O.J. Simpson murder case, Simpson was acquitted on murder charges but a civil court ordered him to pay more than $33 million in a wrongful death suit. This means that a survivor can bring about a wrongful death suit even if there is a criminal suit going on as well. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?

In California, the deceased person’s spouse and children absolutely have the right to file the wrongful death suit. Aside from them, the deceased person’s domestic partner can file it, too.

If the deceased person did not have a domestic partner, and there is no surviving person in their line of descent, then a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought about by the deceased person’s siblings, parents or a person dependent upon the victim at the time of their death.

The dependent person (or people) need to be able to prove they were dependent on the deceased person when they died. The dependents can include a putative spouse as well as the children of the putative spouse. A putative spouse would be classified as someone who lived with the deceased person and was not married to them but believed, in good faith, that they were. If they were legally married to another person, then they would not qualify.

Other dependents who could file the wrongful death lawsuit include the deceased person’s stepchildren and parents.

Why File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Filing a wrongful death claim can help you get the compensation you deserve for your loved one’s death. It could help you pay for: The deceased person’s medical bills, Lost income that the deceased couldn’t earn because they got injured, Potential lost income that the deceased would have earned in the future if they had lived, including bonuses and raises, Their funeral and burial expenses and Loss of support to you.

If you get a settlement, you may be compensated for things like the loss of affection, guidance, love, household help and financial support. This could be incredibly helpful if you relied on your loved one to support you, pay the bills and put a roof over your head.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim With a Personal Injury Lawyer

Losing a loved one is very difficult. Not only do you have to deal with the emotional challenges of their death, but now you also have to contend with financial and logistical issues as well. You might have to tie up their loose ends by selling their home and belongings, closing out their medical bills, talking to their credit card companies and meeting with other people in their family to decide what to do.

While you may be distracted, busy and emotionally drained right now, you also have to think about what your life will look like when the dust settles. Will you have the support you need? Will you be able to pay your own bills? Do you know how you’ll cover the funeral costs or the lost wages from all that time you had to take off work recently?

All of it can be overwhelming. But you do have to think about the future. That’s why it’s important to reach out to a personal injury lawyer and file a wrongful death claim when you’re ready.

You should get in touch as soon as possible after the incident occurs since the statute of limitations is only two years after the person died. If you wait longer than two years, you won’t be able to file and get the compensation you need to cover all your costs and support yourself.

When you talk with a personal injury lawyer, make sure you provide all the details about your case and give them any medical and police records and witness statements you collected. If you took any photographs, hand those over too. Your lawyer will need as much information as possible to try and retrieve fair compensation for you. And remember that you don’t have to worry about further costs, because your lawyer will only charge you a commission once they win a settlement.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve decided that you want to file a wrongful death claim, then reach out to the attorneys at Heiting & Irwin at 951-682-6400, or contact our office online to schedule a free consultation as soon as possible. We can get you the compensation you deserve in your wrongful death case.

Dennis Stout is a native Californian with significant ties to the Inland Empire, where he continues to reside. A graduate of Upland High School, the University of California, Riverside (B.S. Economics), and the University of La Verne (J.D.), Mr. Stout has practiced law continuously since 1979. He has been married to his wife, Alicia (R.N., C.E.N., M.I.C.N.) since that same year, and they have three adult children, all of whom live in Southern California. View Attorney Dennis Stout's Attorney Bio Here.

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