November 17, 2023 In Insurance, Personal Injury

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in California: Who Can and Cannot Sue

Losing a loved one is an indescribable pain, and the situation can be even more distressing if their death was caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongful act. In California, the law allows certain family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This guide from The Mines Law Firm clarifies who is eligible to sue for wrongful death and who isn’t.

1. Eligible Family Members

a. Immediate Family Members:

Spouses or Domestic Partners: They can sue for the loss of companionship and financial support.
Children: Including adopted children, they can sue for loss of parental guidance, support, and companionship.

Example: If John Doe dies in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, his wife and children are eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

b. Extended Family Members (In Some Cases):

Parents: If the deceased has no surviving children, parents can sue for loss of love and companionship.
Siblings: May be eligible if there are no surviving children or spouse.
Financial Dependents: If they can prove they were financially dependent on the deceased, they might have a claim.

Example: Jane Doe, an unmarried woman without children, dies due to medical malpractice. Her parents or financially dependent siblings could be eligible to sue.

2. Ineligible Family Members

a. Non-Immediate Family Members Without Financial Dependence:

Siblings, Cousins, or Other Relatives: Generally, they cannot sue unless they were financially dependent on the deceased.
Fiancés or Engaged Partners: Unless legally married or domestic partners, they typically cannot file a claim.

b. Non-Relatives:

Friends or Co-workers: They are not eligible to sue for wrongful death under California law, regardless of their emotional or social connection to the deceased.

3. Special Circumstances

There are exceptions where other parties might be able to file a claim, particularly if they can prove financial dependence or if there are no surviving immediate family members.


Wrongful death claims are an important legal mechanism