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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Featured image by Külli Kittus on Unsplash

They say death is inevitable. But dealing with a wrongful death is upsetting and devastating. Wrongful death arises when an individual dies due to negligence or wrongful acts of another person or company.

The bereaved are left to deal with emotional and financial stress as a result of the death. Therefore, they should file a wrongful death claim against the party at fault to get compensation. While no amount of money can bring to life your loved one, these claims help the family get lost financial support in addition to closure.

However, the law has restrictions on who can bring a wrongful death claim. Only the closest family members, and especially those who depended on the deceased for financial support, can do this.


Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim?

1. Immediate Family Members

Immediate family members include the spouse, domestic partner, children, and parents of unmarried children have the right to bring such a suit.

Domestic partner refers to the person who believes they were married to the deceased even if their marriage was void or invalidated by the state. If they can prove that they depended on the deceased for financial support, they can file a claim.

Biological, adopted, and stepchildren may file a wrongful death claim if their parent is dead. In addition, the law allows minors who have been living with the deceased for at least six months before the death and got at least 50% financial support to file a claim, even if they were not their legal parents.

If your child, whether minor or an adult who is not married, dies in wrongful death, you are permitted to file a lawsuit against the party at fault. Also, you can file a claim if you were financially dependent on them.


2. Distant Family Members

If the deceased’s immediate family members are also dead, distant family members such as siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren can file a wrongful death claim. What’s more, if the person did not have a will, the heirs may claim the property left behind.

3. Other Financial Dependents

The law allows any other person who suffers financially and those legally entitled to the deceased’s property to file a wrongful death claim. In many instances, there are several people eligible to file a wrongful death claim. This might happen, for example, in the case of a business owner whose partners and associates claim rights to the business assets.

To avoid conflicts, a personal representative may file a lawsuit on behalf of the others. If they win the case and the court awards compensation, the representative distributes the award to the survivors appropriately.


Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim

The survivors can ask for both economic and non-economic damages. Note that the survivors should file a wrongful death claim within two years from the time of death. Immediately after the burial and after you are strong emotionally, start the process of filing the claim.

Recoverable damages include the following:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical bills resulting from the treatment of the injuries that led to death
  • Lost income and future income
  • Other financial support
  • Lost companionship, love, guidance, and moral support

Discuss Your Situation with an Attorney

Navigating the wrongful death of a loved one can take a toll on you. Therefore, it is advisable to seek the help of an attorney who specializes in these types of cases. Start your search for an attorney immediately because a delay could lead to lost evidence, expiry of statute limitations, or loss of witnesses. Nonetheless, do not be in a hurry to settle on an attorney. Sit down with several until you get the best one for your case.