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Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

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Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death suit is an action brought against a person or company whose wrongful act (either intentional or reckless) or negligent behavior caused a death. 

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Many people can bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of the decedent (the person who has died). People who sue for wrongful death must have had a close personal relationship with the decedent. Most wrongful death suits are brought by the following  people:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Children
  • Dependent parent (the parent who lived with the deceased and/or relied upon them for most/all financial support)
  • Personal representative or designated heirs
  • Putative spouse (a surviving spouse whose marriage to the deceased was not valid, but the court finds that the spouse had a good faith belief that his/her marriage was valid)
  • Domestic partner (the domestic partnership must be registered with the state where partners live)
  • Minor living with the deceased (not their biological or adoptive child), who depended on the deceased for financial support

In some states, only the personal representative of the deceased will be able to bring a wrongful death action in court. Any money that is then recovered will be placed into a special account or trust to be distributed to the people named above. 

How Will I Prove My Relationship to the Decedent?

You can testify about your relationship with the decedent. Other witnesses (includeing the decedent's family members and loved ones) may also testify about your relationship with the decedent. The court will take this testimony and other factual information into account to determine if you had a "close personal relationship" with the decedent.

What Kind of Damages Are Awarded in a Wrongful Death Suit?

The damages you will receive if you are successful in a wrongful death suit will vary quite a bit from case to case and may include:

  • Death-related expenses, such as medical and funeral costs
  • Loss of companionship, also known as loss of consortium
  • Loss of decedent's future earnings
  • Punitive damages if the wrongful conduct was intentional

Do I Need an Attorney with Experience in Wrongful Death Actions?

If your family member or loved one died because of someone else's wrongdoing, you should consult an experienced wrongful death attorney. He or she can help determine whether you have a valid claim and can help you understand your rights and remedies.

Photo of page author Peter Clarke

, LegalMatch Content Manager

Last Modified: 03-28-2014 12:30 PM PDT

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