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Can Non-Family File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

In most cases of wrongful death, it is the family that is left behind that will pursue justice for their death in the form of a wrongful death suit. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have a family. Sometimes, they may even outlive all of their family members. However, when someone suffers a wrongful death and they have no living family, is there anyone that can pursue justice for them?

Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Case?

In California, there is actually quite the long list of people that can pursue a wrongful death case after the death of a loved one. This includes the obvious heirs such as spouses, children, parents, as well as domestic partners. This goes further to include anyone that was dependent on the deceased at the time of death including putative spouses, stepchildren, or anyone that depended financially on them.

However, in most of these cases, these heirs are related by marriage if not by blood. Yet, what if they had no one like that in their life? The truth is a wrongful death case can be pursued if you are a distant relative or someone completely non-blood related that stood to inherit from their estate after death due to the wishes outlined in their will.

Pursuing Wrongful Death as a Non-Blood Relative

If the deceased passed away with no family to pursue a wrongful death case, those who stood to inherit from their estate can press their estate representative to pursue a wrongful death case. In these situations, any winnings from a wrongful death suit will go into the estate of the deceased and split among their heirs.

This does mean that if you are an heir and was the only one who was pushing for a wrongful death suit, you will only inherit a portion of the monetary winnings from the suit. The other heirs, no matter how indifferent they were, will still also get a split as the entire sum goes into their estate and will be divided evenly during the probate process.

What if there are Multiple Eligible Parties Seeking a Wrongful Death Suit?

Suppose that not only you, but other inheritors are interested in pressing a wrongful death suit for the deceased. If there is no living spouse, children, or parents, then all non-related interested parties can still pursue the claim, but they will all be lumped together through the estate representative. Again, the proceeds will also be evenly split regarded of their interest in pursuing a wrongful death claim.

It is the same for two different eligible blood-related parties. The claims will be lumped together as one case and all interested parties will be added on as plaintiffs to the singular case. However, if the disagreement is had between two eligible parties, two separate cases can be pursued. It is, unfortunately, not the same between interested non-related parties as they still just go through the estate representative.

Need Legal Help?

As you can tell, if you are not related to the deceased, but believe they were the victim of wrongful death, pursuing a case for them isn't going to be easy and isn't going to be as valuable. However, you will still get them justice and by winning you strike a great victory for their remaining heirs. If you believe the owner of the estate from which you are inheriting from in Los Angeles was the victim of wrongful death, contact us today to see what we can do for you. While the case will ultimately go through the estate representative, we can still help you discover its validity and strength beforehand.


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From our offices in Woodland Hills, California, Freeman & Freeman, LLP, provides legal advice and representation for clients in communities throughout the state, including those in Burbank, Glendale, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Tarzana, Santa Clarita, Agoura Hills, Reseda, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Northridge, Granada Hills, Pacoima, Panorama City, North Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Lancaster, Palmdale and Alhambra.