According to California law a civil suit filed by certain parties — usually a son, daughter, wife or husband of the decedent — is the only place a wrongful death lawsuit can take place. Wrongful death is a financial way to compensate someone for their loss. If a criminal case is going on as the result of someone dying, it will usually be called a manslaughter case.

The wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by someone standing in the place of the person who was killed. The deceased person cannot represent themselves, and so a “representative” is allowed to bring the lawsuit in their place. Who can be a representative in California when someone is killed? Here are some guidelines:

  • The family members of the deceased: This means the spouse, children, life partner or any person who was a dependent on the person killed. These are the closest family members, and if any of them exist, they have the right to bring the case first.
  • Parents: If the person who was killed has no spouse and no kids, then the parents of the deceased can be the representatives for the lawsuit.

Other representatives: The rules of who can file a wrongful death suit are located in the California Civil Jury Instructions, a set of instructions that are regularly called CACI.

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