In a Case with Multiple Heirs



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In a Case with Multiple Heirs, How Are Damages Divided?

No family likes to experience the loss of a loved one. It does happen and based on the circumstances; a family could be awarded damages. This often happens in a wrongful death lawsuit. It is possible for multiple heirs to be involved in this situation. Each person in a family will have had a unique relationship with the decedent. When multiple heirs believe they are entitled to a damage award from a wrongful death or other situation, it’s important lawyers are involved in the case to carefully examine each claimant’s relationship with the decedent. The extent of their loss from the death of a loved one needs to be determined.


The level of loss experienced by a family member could be a determining factor when it comes to the amount of compensation they will receive. The costs associated with such things as funeral as well as burial expenses can be part of a damage award. An amount for future economic loss can be determined by the level of support the decedent provided a claimant. Damages are often subjective and based on the type of relationship that existed between the decedent and the claimant.

Burden of Proof

When there are multiple heirs submitting claims for damages, the claimant will have the burden of proof. It will be their responsibility to show a court the type of relationship they had with the claimant. They will have to establish the level of involvement they had in the decedent’s life. This could be for economic compensation but also for the loss of a relationship. A claimant needs to establish how they lost future friendship, consortium and more. It will be up to a claimant to prove the death of a person caused them to lose moral support, guidance and other aspects of a close relationship.

Separate Attorneys

In many wrongful death lawsuits, only one attorney is necessary. When there are multiple heirs, it may be in the best interest of each claimant to have their own attorney. This will provide each claimant the chance to have representation that is focused on their individual situation. This will make it possible for a person to maximize their claim’s potential. Having separate representation will also eliminate any attorney conflict of interest issues.

Case Resolution

The claims in a wrongful death lawsuit can take as long as necessary to resolve: there is no time limit on them. Each claimant will be given a sufficient amount of time to make their case for what they feel they deserve concerning damages. Should the case involve a father with multiple marriages and children from each marriage, it will take longer than a situation with a single child and parent. It is not unusual for such cases to take years to resolve. Some have been completed in a matter of months. It’s important for people to realize every case it unique. The many factors involved will determine how long is takes to resolve.

Statute Of Limitations

This is the time limit for filing a lawsuit for damages. In the state of California, the statute of limitations for starting legal action in a wrongful death case is two years from the date of the death. If this legal action involves a claimant who is under the age of 18, the statute of limitations begins on the date the person obtains the age of majority. This is age 18 and two years. The two-year requirement can begin the day a minor is legally emancipated. A claim for damages in a wrongful death can be brought against a public entity. This is classified as a governmental claim. The statute of limitations in this situation is within six months of the date of death.


In the state of California, individuals who are not married or are a registered domestic partner will not qualify to be a claimant in a wrongful death lawsuit involving each other. California did away with common law marriages in 1895. If two individuals are lawfully married in another state, they can be claimants in each other’s wrongful death lawsuit in California.


The child of a decedent can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. A child is legally defined as relatives conceived prior to a decedent’s death. It is possible for an illegitimate child of a decedent to also bring a wrongful death lawsuit. An illegitimate child will be permitted to bring such legal action provided they are able to prove paternity.

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