Fire Victim Trust

Frequently Asked Questions


Wrongful Death Claims


129. What are Wrongful Death Claims?

Wrongful Death Claims allow families to recover damages relating to individuals who died as a result of the Fires. The Trustee and Claims Administrator will devise procedures ensuring a streamlined and sensitive process providing Claimants and their family members the dignity that is critical to successfully resolving claims relating to these extraordinary losses.


130. Who may submit a Wrongful Death Claim?

Under California law, an action for wrongful death may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent's personal representative on their behalf:

 

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession;
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  • Whether or not qualified under (a), if they were dependent on the decedent, the putative spouse, children of the putative spouse, stepchildren, or parents; or
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  • A minor, whether or not qualified under (a) or (b), if, at the time of the decedent’s death, the minor resided for the previous 180 days in the decedent’s household and was dependent on the decedent for one-half or more of the minor’s support.


131. Who qualifies as a “domestic partner” to submit a Wrongful Death Claim?

A “domestic partner” is a person, who at the time of the decedent’s death, was the domestic partner of the decedent in a registered domestic partnership established in accordance with subdivision (b) of Section 297 of the California Family Code.


132. Who qualifies as a “putative spouse” to submit a Wrongful Death Claim?

A "putative spouse" means the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by a court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid.


133. What types of documents may support my Wrongful Death Claim?

You may provide a copy of a death certificate, autopsy report or other medical records identifying the decedent's cause of death. You should also provide medical records and/or other documents to show the decedent's general health at the time of death. For decedents who did not die directly in or during a Fire, Claimants may be required to submit an expert report that provides the opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the Fire was a substantial contributing cause of the decedent's death. If a claim is being made for lost financial support, submit any evidence of said support and tax, employment, or other financial records reflecting the decedent's annual income for the two years preceding his or her death. You also may provide information detailing other expenses related to the decedent's death and explaining how the death has affected you and describing your loss of relationship, love, support, and companionship.


134. What if I do not have records showing the decedent’s general health at the time of death?

The Trust will consider the health of the decedent when evaluating a Wrongful Death Claim, and it is necessary for you to submit medical records, preferably from a primary care physician, describing the state of the decedent's health at or near the time of the decedent's death. If you do not have or cannot obtain records, it may be necessary for you to open a probate estate, issue a subpoena, or take other appropriate measures to obtain the records.

 

If you are unable to obtain records after diligent efforts, then you may provide us with:

 

  • An affidavit describing your efforts to obtain the medical records; and
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  • An attestation from you or another of the decedent’s heirs regarding the decedent’s general health at the time of death.

 

If the information in these affidavits is sufficient, we may waive the medical records requirement and proceed with assigning an award amount to an otherwise eligible Wrongful Death Claim. We may also reach out to you if we need additional information after reviewing the affidavits.


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