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Can a Minor File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

  • Sep 14 2020

In California, wrongful death lawsuits allow those suffering the loss of a loved one to file suit for damages against the at-fault party. Parameters guide who can file a wrongful death suit. Consulting with a California wrongful death attorney is vital when determining if you have a right to file an action. 

Generally, California law allows spouses, domestic partners, and children to file wrongful death lawsuits.  What happens when minor children survive their parents? Can a minor file a wrongful death lawsuit? 

Let’s examine some guidelines for wrongful death lawsuits in California. 

What is a wrongful death lawsuit? 

When someone dies due to the negligence or legal fault of another person, the decedent’s survivors have a right to file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death actions provide an opportunity for survivors to seek compensation for their loss. 

What can be awarded through wrongful death claims in California?

Survivors bringing wrongful death claims are entitled to compensation for their loss, which includes loss of:

  • Financial support
  • Emotional support
  • Love
  • Quality of life

It is important to note that wrongful death claims differ from survivor claims. Survivor claims seek damages on behalf of the decedent, whereas wrongful death actions provide compensation to survivors who have suffered loss due to the descent’s death. 

Wrongful death claims compensate the decedent’s survivors for lost wages, lost income, medical expenses, lifestyle adjustments, missed care and support, and emotional pain and suffering.

Who can bring a wrongful death action in California?

It seems reasonable that any person who has suffered harm due to the loss of a loved one should be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, most states strictly define persons eligible to file a claim. 

Persons eligible to file a wrongful death action in California are:

  • Spouses
  • Domestic Partners and Putative Spouses
  • Children, including biological children and stepchildren 
  • Minors living with the decedent for 180 days before the decedent’s death and received at least 50% of their financial support from the decedent 

Where there are no surviving children, spouses, or domestic partners, other parties considered heirs to the estate may file a wrongful death claim.

In many cases, multiple parties will want to pursue a wrongful death claim after a loved one’s death. These parties, known as real parties in interest, will need to designate a single representative to bring the wrongful death claim on their behalf.  Often, the executor of the decedent’s estate is named the representative filing the lawsuit on behalf of the parties in interest.

How does a minor file a wrongful death claim in California?

For minors surviving the loss of their only parent or both parents in California, guardianship of the minor child will need to be established. Minors who survive their parent(s) will be appointed a guardian by the court if the decedent(s) did not make other provisions for guardianship. 

Once identified, the guardian may act as the child’s representative and file a wrongful death action on their behalf. Similarly, lawsuits filed on behalf of the estate may provide awarded damages to the minor child.

Ask a California Wrongful Death Attorney

If you know a child who has suffered the loss of their parent and are considering a wrongful death action on their behalf, you must consult a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Statutes of limitations govern wrongful death actions, and valuable time is often lost during periods of mourning and recovery. 

An experienced California wrongful death attorney can explain the minor’s legal options and advise you regarding the steps necessary to protect their interests. Contact our law office today for compassionate and knowledgeable representation in California wrongful death lawsuits.  

Posted in: Wrongful Death


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