It’s hard to imagine the anguish of being a minor child left behind after a parent’s wrongful death. Even as this young person struggles to accept the tragic loss of their loved one, other hardships also surface.
The adult’s death puts the family’s finances in jeopardy, creating an additional burden of funeral expenses and burial costs. The family has lost the loved one’s steady income and could be facing a large stack of medical bills that built up before their passing. Plus, the emotional damage is almost unbearable.
In this extraordinarily difficult situation, it’s crucial to clarify the legal issues involved. The question arises: Can a minor file a wrongful death claim to help cope with their losses?
What the Law Says About Wrongful Death Claims from Minors
The law entitles certain parties to file wrongful death claims when a loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness. Under California Code §377.60, the qualified parties are heirs, dependents, and estate representatives of the deceased.
If a minor child was at least 50% dependent on the deceased person and lived with them for at least 180 days prior, they likely have the standing to make a wrongful death claim. This includes biological children, step-children, adopted children, and minors who legally fall under the guardianship of deceased adults.
Someone’s status as a minor doesn’t stop them from making a wrongful death claim, but there’s something important to know about starting these claims. The minor will need the assistance of a living guardian who can help them pursue compensation for the wrongful death, which is discussed in more detail below.
Starting a Wrongful Death Claim as a Minor
A minor who has the legal status to start a wrongful death claim will need the help of a California wrongful death lawyer. The best law firm for the job will have extensive experience with handling wrongful death claims that involve California minors.
Of course, the minor shouldn’t be the one communicating with the law office themselves. One of the key steps involved will be to establish who, under the law, is the living guardian who legally represents the child and can help pursue the wrongful death claim on their behalf regarding the deceased.
If there is no clear living parent or guardian, the court will establish who should fulfill this role. Ultimately, a legal adult must be involved in the process to represent the minor’s best interests.
From there, a wrongful death lawyer can initiate the wrongful death claim and calculate its total compensatory value. In this challenging situation, a wrongful death claim could cover a wide range of costs that are extremely difficult for a minor to handle after the loss of a parent or guardian.
Types of Damages Minors Can Receive in California Wrongful Death Claims
A minor’s wrongful death claim can include many types of damages in California. Some are economic damages, which have a clear financial impact, and others are non-economic damages that involve more intangible emotional and quality of life damages.
- Funeral costs
- Burial costs
- Hospital bills and medical bills
- Household services
- Loss of income/financial support over a lifetime
- Loss of a trust/pension/retirement fund
- Benefits and gifts the minor would have received
- Loss of the minor’s quality of life, including the loss of love, comfort, care, affection, moral support, and societal interactions
- Lifestyle adjustments that have to be made due to the death
- Emotional damages
The value of the emotional damages in a wrongful death case involving a minor can be quite large. After all, the child has forever lost one of the most important people in their world. They deserve full and fair compensation for being wrongfully deprived of this loving guardian.
Making a total calculation of non-economic damages requires significant legal expertise. In California, there is no fixed amount or standard for non-economic damages in a minor’s wrongful death case. It’s left up to the judge and jury for each case to decide how much compensation the minor should be able to claim. If it doesn’t go to court, a settlement should place a high value on the minor’s emotional suffering.
While no amount of money can ever make up for such an enormous loss, it can certainly provide a cushion for a vulnerable child. Every minor in this situation deserves the support that comes from a successful wrongful death claim.
Additional damages may be recovered in a California survival action, but ask your wrongful death lawyer about whether bringing a survival action makes sense in your situation.
We’ll Help You Handle Your Wrongful Death Claim
If you’re a minor with a wrongful death claim or a parent/guardian who represents a minor with legal standing, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law, including wrongful death claims made on the behalf of minors. A child deserves to focus on healing while we handle the legal details.
We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.