Some states allow family members of a deceased person to file a wrongful death lawsuit, while others only permit an executor or a personal representative to sue on behalf of the deceased individual’s estate.
Which Family Members Can Sue
According to the Legal Information Institute (LII), negligence is when one has failed to reach the standard of care in the set circumstances through omission or other actions. If your loved one died because of another party’s negligent or intentionally wrong behavior, you and your family members can receive financial compensation.
In some states, relatives of a deceased person may file a wrongful death lawsuit to pursue compensation. Some state laws only allow a victim’s spouse and children to sue. Alternatively, other states give members of the victim’s extended family, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, the right to seek a financial award.
Some state laws allow other people who were not related to the deceased victim by blood, marriage, or adoption to pursue financial compensation. For instance, in some states, a deceased person’s romantic partner may be permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit, even if the couple was not married.
In other cases, a person who was financially dependent on the victim or who would have been entitled to an inheritance from them may be eligible for compensation, even if the individual seeking a financial award is not a family member.
In states where relatives are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit, laws differ on when and how they may do so. In some states, any eligible family member may file a wrongful death lawsuit, and multiple lawsuits can be combined and treated as one.
State laws set up a hierarchy that allows certain relatives to seek compensation before others. For example, a victim’s spouse may have a year to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If he or she decides not to do so or misses the deadline for another reason, the victim’s children, if any, may then sue for compensation. If the victim does not have a surviving spouse, the deceased person’s children will be able to file a lawsuit.
Who Else May Be Able to Sue
Under some state laws, relatives of a deceased person are not permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their own to seek compensation. Instead, an executor or a personal representative who is to oversee matters related to the deceased individual’s affairs may file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate.
A financial award can be used to pay outstanding bills, such as those for medical care the decedent received before he or she died, and the rest can be distributed among family members.
Statute of Limitations
State laws differ not only on the question of who may file a wrongful death lawsuit but also on when. Each state has a statute of limitations for wrongful death claims, but the amount of time that relatives of the victim may sue varies from state to state. The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is different across the United States.
Under some circumstances, the statute of limitations may be extended. For instance, if your loved one did not become aware of an injury or negligent act until long after it occurred, the statute of limitations may be tolled.
That means that instead of the statute of limitations beginning when the injury occurred, it may begin on the date when your family member learned of the injury. If the statute of limitations is tolled, your family may have additional time to sue for compensation.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney
If your loved one has passed away as a result of another party’s actions, your family can receive compensation. It is important to understand the laws in your state so that you can follow the appropriate procedures and act within the allotted time.
Attorneys at Ben Crump Law, PLLC have helped families across the United States seek justice for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones.
An attorney can meet with you to discuss the circumstances that led to your relative’s death and explain your legal options. If you decide to pursue financial compensation, our legal team can investigate, gather evidence, determine who was responsible for your family member’s passing, and help you file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Contact a wrongful death lawyer to discuss your state laws on who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit so we can begin working on your case.