Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

person mourning in front of a grave

Losing a loved one is an indescribable tragedy, and when the death is the result of someone else’s negligence or intentional act, the pain can be compounded by a desire for justice.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal remedy that allows certain family members or dependents to seek compensation for their loss. Understanding who can file such a lawsuit and the legal process involved is crucial for those seeking justice. 

Definition of Wrongful Death

A wrongful death occurs when an individual’s death is caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another party. This can include accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, criminal acts, or defective products.

The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to hold the responsible party accountable and to provide financial compensation to the surviving family members or dependents.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit varies by state, but generally, the following individuals are allowed to bring a claim:

  1. Spouse: In most states, the surviving spouse has the primary right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. They are typically the first in line to seek compensation for losing their partner.

  2. Children: Biological and legally adopted children of the deceased can usually file a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes minor and adult children, depending on state laws.

  3. Parents: If the deceased was a minor or if there were no surviving spouse or children, the parents of the deceased may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is particularly relevant if the parents were financially dependent on the deceased.

  4. Executors or Administrators of the Estate: In some cases, the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. This person is typically appointed through the probate court to manage the deceased’s estate and can represent the interests of the beneficiaries.

  5. Other Dependents: In certain states, individuals who were financially dependent on the deceased, such as stepchildren, siblings, or even distant relatives, may also have the right to file a wrongful death claim. The definition of who qualifies as a dependent can vary, so it is important to consult with a legal expert.

Statute of Limitations

It is crucial to be aware of the statute of limitations, which is the time limit within which you must file a wrongful death lawsuit. This period varies by state but typically ranges from one to three years from the date of the death.

Failing to file within this time frame can result in losing the right to pursue the lawsuit.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If a wrongful death lawsuit is successful, the damages awarded can include:

  • Compensatory Damages: These cover medical and funeral expenses, loss of income, loss of companionship, and emotional suffering experienced by the survivors.
  • Punitive Damages: In cases involving particularly egregious conduct, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future.

The Legal Process

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit involves several key steps:

  1. Consultation with an Attorney: It is advisable to seek legal counsel experienced in wrongful death cases to evaluate the merits of your claim.
  2. Investigation and Evidence Gathering: Your attorney will gather evidence, such as medical records, accident reports, and witness statements.
  3. Filing the Lawsuit: The lawsuit is filed in the appropriate court, outlining the details of the claim and the damages sought.
  4. Negotiation or Trial: Most wrongful death cases are settled out of court, but the case may go to trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached.

Helping Atlanta Families Recover After Unimaginable Loss

If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful act, understanding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and the process involved is essential. Reach out to Connelly Law today at (404) 500-0259 to learn more.