Losing a loved one is never an easy experience, especially when death resulted from the negligent or wrongful acts of another. Fortunately for families in California, state law provides the right for them to pursue justice and compensation for their losses after their family member has been victim of wrongful death.

Although a wrongful death may result in criminal allegations against the at-fault party, such as vehicular homicide charges against a drunk driver who caused a fatal crash, criminal proceedings are filed by the state and concern only whether a person is guilty and how they should be punished.


In order for families to secure a further sense of justice and financial compensation for their losses, wrongful death claims must be filed in a civil court. These proceedings are separate from and different in scope as compared to criminal cases. For example, the burden of proof in civil cases is lower (by a “preponderance of the evidence,” or “more likely than not” as compared to “beyond a reasonable doubt”).

While pathways to compensation are available for families, not everyone can file a wrongful death claim. Under California law (CCP § 377.60), only certain individuals may bring a wrongful death action.

Eligible parties in wrongful death actions can include:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Surviving domestic partner
  • Surviving children

If these family members are not present, claims can be brought by other relatives who would be entitled to the deceased’s estate by intestate succession. These family members may include living parents or siblings of the decedent. Additionally, California’s wrongful death law permits other people to file wrongful death claims if they can demonstrate they were economically dependent on the deceased. These people may include:

  • Putative spouse (not legally married but entered into in good faith)
  • Children of putative spouse
  • Stepchildren

While determining whether you are entitled to bring a wrongful death action may seem straightforward, the rules are governed by complex laws, especially if unique familial circumstances are involved. Our legal team at Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook can help you better understand your rights and whether you may be able to file a wrongful death claim during a free consultation.


Similar to personal injury claims, wrongful death claims enable victims and families to hold wrongdoers accountable for their negligence and liable for any damages that result. In the case of wrongful death claims, families may be eligible to recover financial compensation for economic and emotional damages that include:

  • Loss of economic support
  • Any medical expenses prior to death
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Loss of companionship and support
  • Loss of guidance and training
  • Grief and anguish experienced by family members.

Our firm understands that while no amount of money can serve as recompense for the tragic loss of a loved one, families often suffer tremendous emotional and financial strains when a family member passes away. As such, we go above and beyond in our efforts to help clients during these difficult times, and we fight aggressively in the pursuit of justice and fair compensation. Since 1979, our compassionate approach and decades of combined experience have allowed our lawyers to recover millions of dollars in compensation in wrongful death cases. We’re available to help anyone who needs trusted legal assistance in these matters.

Learn more about wrongful death claims, your rights, and how our Bay Area attorneys at Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook can help during a free consultation. Contact us today.