The Business Litigation Blog

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

If you lost someone close to you as a result of someone else’s carelessness or negligence, you may be wondering if you can file a wrongful death lawsuit against them. As our wrongful death lawyer can tell you, getting justice is not just about getting a substantial settlement; it’s also about sending the message that a senseless death should not go unpunished. We may be able to help you hold the at-fault party accountable.

State Laws Regarding Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Laws vary slightly from state to state when it comes to pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. In particular, the determination of who qualifies to file the suit are somewhat different. A wrongful death lawyer can examine your case and provide you more information as to whether or not you may be able to file the lawsuit.

Those Who Qualify to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

As a general rule, the only person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit is the person or persons who were beneficiaries of the deceased. Most states have established who they consider should be the default or statutory beneficiary. Usually this is the widow or widower, or the children of the deceased. In addition, depending on how a judge rules (which can be greatly influenced by whether or not there is a surviving spouse or child) the following people may qualify to file a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Members of the immediate family such as the surviving spouse, children, legally adopted children, financially dependent parents.
  • Financially dependent grandparents or siblings or other distant family members.
  • The parents of a deceased fetus.
  • Life partner or domestic partner.
  • Persons who were financially dependent on the deceased.

The Decedent’s Estate

In some states, individuals cannot file a wrongful death suit on behalf of the decedent regardless of their past relationship to the individual. In these states, the lawsuit can only be filed by the decedent’s estate. A wrongful death lawyer Washington D.C. residents recommend can tell you if this will be necessary. In this scenario, the person who is recognized as the representative of the estate will have to file the lawsuit. That person will be the one who was named as the estate executor in the deceased’s will, or else they will be named by the probate court in the event that there is no legally recognized will. The representative will file the lawsuit under their own name though any financial award that is recovered will likely be placed into a special trust. The funds will subsequently be disbursed to the beneficiaries named in the will or by the probate court.

Meet With a Wrongful Death Lawyer at No Charge

If you are suffering the senseless loss of someone close to you and are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, make an appointment with an attorney today. Many firms offer free consultations and can meet with you at no charge to go over the circumstances of your case and provide you with actionable information.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C., for their insight into wrongful death.

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