Typically, a wrongful death occurs when someone is killed due to deliberate or negligent actions of another party. A criminal death victim cannot file for compensatory damages. In most states across the United States, it is usually the surviving family members or the decedent’s estate that can bring forth a wrongful death claim.
A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought before a civil court where the respondents seek monetary compensation against the parties responsible for the decedent’s wrongful death. The following information will identify who is eligible to file for a wrongful death suit in a civil court.
Who Can File For A Wrongful Death?
According to both federal and state laws, the decedent cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the person who can file that claim depends on the decedent’s former state of residence.
Each state has its regulations that pertain to wrongful death claims, and each legal process is unique to each state. In most states, the eligible person who can file for wrongful death include an immediate family member such as a surviving spouse if the decedent was married.
If the decedent was not married but was in a legally registered domestic partnership, their surviving domestic partner can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. If they had a surviving adult child, the adult child could file for a wrongful death suit on behalf of their deceased parent. However, if the child is a minor, then the surviving parent can bring a claim.
If there is no surviving parent, then distant family members or surviving next of kin such as siblings, grandparents, uncles, etc., can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable parties. Where the decedent has no surviving next of kin to claim on their behalf, then the responsibility of seeking remedy for the decedent’s wrongful death rests on their estate.
In some cases, a wrongful death lawsuit may be thwarted by a family dispute over who should file the claim. Typically, a civil court allows only one family member to file for such a claim. If different claims are brought forth by several family members, then the court will most certainly incorporate all these claims into a single lawsuit.
What Happens If The Decedent Left A Will?
If a person killed in a wrongful death left behind a will, the court would be mandated to appoint an executor or a family representative to oversee their estate. In such a situation, it is the executor or personal representative appointed by the court who is legally eligible to bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit.
Talk To An Experienced Attorney
It is understandable the pain, loss, and trauma that comes with the wrongful death of a loved one. No amount of monetary compensation can ever bring them back. The burden of hefty medical, funeral expenses and the financial challenges such a tragedy brings can be overwhelming. To help you find some relief and comfort amid such pain, it is encouraged to hire a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney to help ensure the liable parties are held accountable, and that you obtain just compensation.
Statute Of Limitations
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit varies from state to state. The clock usually begins to tick the moment the criminal death victim dies. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, it is advisable to file for a wrongful death lawsuit no later than six months from the day the decedent died.
If the death was caused by the negligence of a government entity or employee, you should file for a pre-lawsuit notice, also known as a notice of claim, within 90 days from the day the death occurred.
In some states, the statute of limitations can be as short as six months or as long as one year. Once the statute of limitations expired, you cannot have any legal rights to receive compensation for the decedent’s wrongful death.