Can Multiple Parties File Individual Wrongful Death Lawsuits in California?

Posted on 06/7/23

in Wrongful Death

When a person loses their life due to the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of another individual or entity in California, family members and the estates of the deceased typically have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, what if more than one surviving family member or other interested party wants to file a lawsuit against the alleged negligent party for the same death incident?

Here, we want to discuss why all individuals must typically join a claim and file together.

Understanding the One Action Rule

The “one action rule” in California essentially says that any individuals who wish to file a wrongful death claim after the loss of a loved one must include everyone who counts as an heir to the deceased in the claim. All damages awarded as a result of a successful wrongful death claim will be handed to the estate and the family, who will then have to determine the best way of dividing the compensation amongst themselves.

In some situations, disagreements within a family unit or among dependents occur when it comes to dividing up damages. A court may need to intervene and decide how best to divide and eventual settlement.

It is important to point out that it is not the responsibility of the negligent party to contact or coordinate with all possible dependents who could receive compensation after the case has been finalized. Whoever brought the wrongful death claim against the negligent party is responsible for taking care of this part of the process.

What if Some Qualified Heirs Are Left Out?

In the event qualified heirs have been inadvertently left off of the initial claim, they still have the right to receive compensation. Any excluded individuals will have to take legal action against other claimants who were included in the initial claim, not against the alleged negligent party who had to pay compensation.

If the claim is filed by a representative of the deceased and not an actual family member, the representative will not have to include all valid claimants. Any heirs to the deceased’s estate will receive compensation based on a will or estate plan already in place. If there is not a will or estate plan in place, then heirs will receive compensation based on California’s intestate succession laws.

Working With an Attorney For Help

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another individual, entity, or business, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. Wrongful death claims and survival actions are incredibly challenging, particularly for those who do not have extensive resources.

When you work with an attorney, you will have an advocate ready to fully investigate the wrongful death and handle representing you and your loved ones in court. Your attorney will handle the process of determining who needs to be a part of the wrongful death claim. Ultimately, the goal is to recover the compensation needed to obtain closure during an incredibly difficult time. This compensation can include help with funeral and burial costs, any outstanding medical bills, as well as lost wages, loss of future earnings, and non-economic pain and suffering damages.