Unless an Exception Applies, Grandparents Can’t Automatically Sue
Let’s look at the law. Although parents share a special bond with their children, grandparents and grandchildren share a meaningful relationship too. Losing your grandchild can be heartbreaking, but to know that they died due to another’s negligence or reckless actions, can be emotionally traumatic.
In such situations, no amount of money could help replace the loss of your loved one but filing a wrongful death claim against the responsible party can help ease the financial burden arising from someone’s death. However, proving a wrongful death claim can be challenging, but with an experienced law firm, you can increase your chances of securing compensation.
Ehline Law and our child wrongful death attorneys have over a decade of experience handling personal injury and wrongful death cases across California. We have recovered more than $150 million in compensation/settlements for our clients. We are in the business of ensuring you obtain justice.
Losing your grandchild to another person’s negligence can be devastating at such an age, especially if you’re financially dependent on the grandchild. You may be eligible for compensation if you’ve lost your grandchild to someone else’s negligence. Reach out to us for a free consultation and learn more about your rights as a grandparent.
Grandparents Are Often Unaware of Their Rights
Many believe that the right to sue for wrongful death claims only lies with the immediate family members, such as spouses, or children, which is why many grandparents decide not to pursue legal action when they lose their grandchildren. However, that is not always the case, as, under certain circumstances, grandparents can sue the negligent party for the death of their grandchild.
Grandparents also have the right to sue for visitation rights if they believe it is in their grandchild’s best interest. Let’s quickly go over grandparent visitation rights before heading to whether or not they can sue for the wrongful death of their grandchild.
Suing Party for Grandparent Visitation Rights
A grandparent may file a lawsuit for visitation rights if:
- After the death or divorce of one parent, the other may not allow the grandparent to visit their grandchild.
- The visitation is in the best interest of the child. Under California Family Code section 3100, grandparents may receive reasonable visitation rights if either child’s parents are deceased.
- The grandparent maintained a relationship with the child before the child’s parents cut them off.
If you’re wondering how grandparents can sue for visitation rights, here are the key steps:
- Gather evidence of attempts to maintain a relationship with the child and proof of visitation violations being de facto terminated.
- Send the child’s parents a demand letter mentioning all the necessary details and the date you will pursue a visitation rights lawsuit if they don’t get back to you.
- Once the demand letter deadline passes, you must request small claims court for appropriate forms and fill them out accordingly.
- Serve the child’s parents’ notice of your visitation rights lawsuit or send a police officer/district clerk to help you.
- Prepare your case, so you’re ready to provide facts before the judge or reach out to a skilled attorney to represent you so you are not denied visitation.
Grandparents must go through a list of stipulations before being granted visitation. The court will decide whether to allow or deny visitation rights depending on certain factors. However, unless there is a legal adoption, grandparents seeking visitation rights cannot sue for the wrongful death of the child they wish to visit unless there is some other exception.
Some of these factors that determine grandparent visitation include:
- Whether or not the biological, custodial parent is an unfit parent with zero parental rights
- Whether the grandparent is fit to take care of the grandchild and appointed to do so
- Is the child’s parent legally incompetent?
- Is the grandparent the parent of the deceased parent of the living child?
- Whether the grandparent got denied visitation rights by the grandparent’s child in custody, etc.
If you’re looking to sue for visitation to receive grandparent visitation rights, you need an attorney experienced in family law to help fight for your rights.
We’ve discussed grandparent visitation rights, but what if your grandchild died due to another person’s negligence? Can grandparents sue, then?
Can Grandparents Sue for the Death of Their Grandchild?
In California, several people can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. However, certain individuals have priority over others.
Let’s look at the following groups of people eligible as plaintiffs, listed in order of priority.
The deceased’s surviving spouse or registered domestic partner has the first right to file wrongful death claims. However, the court may deny that right if it believes that the surviving spouse is not legally competent. The surviving spouse can also waive their right of priority if they wish.
In the event that there is no surviving spouse, the deceased’s surviving children (biological, adopted, or stepchildren) can pursue the lawsuit. If the surviving children are minors, the court will assign a guardian to file the claim on their behalf. Grandchildren also have the right to pursue claims if the deceased’s children are also dead.
Minors, who are not legal children of the deceased, may file a lawsuit if they lived with the deceased for at least six months or 180 days. Minors are only eligible if they were dependent on the deceased, who provided at least half of their financial support.
If the deceased offspring remained unmarried without children before death, the right to pursue a claim is passed down to the parents. If the parents can prove their dependency on the deceased, and it was their own child, they may also have the right to bring a claim.
California intestate succession laws kick in when the deceased has no surviving family members. In such cases, individuals eligible for inheritance may bring a claim against the responsible party.
These include (arranged in order of priority) parents (regardless of dependency), siblings or children of departed siblings, and grandparents.
Next of Kin
There may be situations where none of the deceased’s relatives are entitled to their property. In such cases, the next of kin has the right to file a lawsuit.
Deceased’s Estate’s Representative
At times, more than one plaintiff can be eligible for filing a lawsuit, and representing multiple plaintiffs can be difficult for an attorney to handle. If that happens, claimants can come together and decide whether they want the single personal representative of the deceased’s estate to file a lawsuit on everyone’s behalf.
California wrongful death statute will split the award/settlement accordingly, helping simplify the case. The surviving spouse or children come first, followed by surviving parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, and nephews.
In many cases, grandparents are one of the last groups of people who can file wrongful death claims or receive damages from one. When grandparents lose their own child, or their child is incompetent, many grandparents seek to rear their grankids.
In special circumstances, grandparents may have been awarded custody of grandchildren after a parent dies. Also, when a surviving parent is absent or uninvolved in rearing the child, grandparents may be considered the next of kin by the courts, since they provided child care. So it is possible, a grandparent raising a grandchild may be able to file a claim and recover damages as a parent. To learn more about grandparents, rights and blood relative claims, contact an experienced attorney today at (213) 596-9642.
Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
The recoverable damages you can sue for in wrongful death claims include medical expenses before death, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and health insurance coverage, pension plans, loss of gifts/inheritance, and surviving family members’ pain and suffering.
Some states allow punitive damages, but in California, you can only claim punitive damages if you lose your loved one to felony homicide by the defendant and prove it. Taking legal action will usually require a guide who understands this critical information and the conditions when more than just love comes into play to improve and change the trajectory of these legal disputes. These people are called “wrongful death attorneys.”
Typically, California does not allow damages for pain, suffering, or mental anguish in wrongful death claims but has recently temporarily allowed it until January 1, 2026.
To recover all the recoverable damages, you must prove the above-mentioned specific losses, which can be challenging. A skilled wrongful death attorney can help the person suing to establish economic losses and obtain maximum compensation. This is the case for your loss of life claim in most states governed under American common law principles.
Is There a Time Limit for a Wrongful Death Claim?
If you wish to file a claim over the loss of the deceased party, you must take immediate action as there is not much time. Under the California statute of limitations, a plaintiff must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years following the deceased’s death or lose the right to do so. A lawyer will be vital in your individual case to access the courts and be able to speak legal ease with other lawyers defending the defendant who killed the victim.
For deaths arising from medical malpractice, plaintiffs have three years following the date of the malpractice. However, certain circumstances shorten the filing date. If a government entity is responsible for the loss of your grandchild, you only have six months from the date of death to bring a claim.
If you have already lost your grandchild due to another’s negligence, the clock is ticking, and you may lose the right to pursue legal action against the responsible party if you don’t act quickly. Contact our California wrongful death attorneys to help you with your case.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law
If you’re a grandparent looking to file a wrongful death claim against the negligent party, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation on your case. Our California wrongful death attorneys have the experience and knowledge you need to stand against the responsible party and hold them accountable for your loss.
Here are some of the historic wrongful death victories we secured for our clients:
- Widow v. Insurance Company – $4.2 million
- Ducket v. Ridgecrest Regional Hospital – $2.02 million
- Hier v. State of California (Caltrans) – $2 million
- Cosham v. City and County of Los Angeles – $1.9 million
- Clare v. Estate of Clare – $1.22 million
- Doe v. Automaker – $1.05 million
- Rodriguez et al. v. Osterkamp Farms – $1.037 million
- Distler v. Redondo Beach Unified School District – $1 million.
At Ehline Law, we foster a solid attorney-client relationship whereby we keep our clients updated every step of the way. We understand that a grandparent-grandchild relationship is unique. A law firm like Ehline Law focuses on winning and maintaining a positive attorney-client relationship, which is crucial to your wrongful death case.
Immediately contact us to learn more about filing wrongful death claims, or visit our law offices across California for a free case review. We will help you understand your rights as a grandparent and the legal options you have to help you make an informed decision.
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Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.
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