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Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

The death of anyone can be a traumatic experience for the family and loved ones. When that death comes at the negligence of another party, it can seem even more tragic. Wrongful death lawsuits are limited in who can bring about the lawsuit and the type of damages that can be recovered. 

Wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury lawsuits have at least one thing in common according to the attorneys over at John Foy & Associates. When a family member sues for a wrongful death lawsuit after a car accident when negligence is involved, the same criteria for a personal injury lawsuit. 

What Damages are Covered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The damages available in a wrongful death claim generally fall into two broad categories divided by time. The first category is the damages that occur from the time of the accident up until the person’s death. This can include medical expenses, the deceased’s mental pain and suffering, lost wages, and funeral or burial expenses. 

The second category covers the expenses and losses experienced by the person’s next of kin after the deceased’s death. These damages compensate the surviving family members for their loss. Though the laws covering these damages vary from state to state, they are meant to compensate the family members for the loss of income provided by the deceased individual. 

Some states allow for damages due to “loss of consortium” which is the loss of companionship for a spouse and the loss of guidance for the children. 

Who Can Sue in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Statutes on who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit vary from state to state. In most cases, it is the immediate family members who can sue for wrongful death. People who suffer from financial losses are referred to as “real parties of interest.” This can include:

  • Immediate family members – In all states, spouses, children, and parents of unmarried children can file a wrongful death suit. 
  • Life partners, financial dependents, and putative spouses – Some states allow for a domestic partner, anyone who is financially dependent on the deceased, and a person who had a relationship that had a good faith belief of becoming a spouse can sue. 
  • Some states allow for more distant family members, such as siblings or grandparents to bring wrongful death lawsuits. 
  • Parents of a deceased fetus – In some states, the death of a fetus can be the basis of a wrongful death suit.
  • Unrelated victims – Some states allow for people who are not related to the victim to bring suit if they suffered from financial losses. A business partner, for example, could bring suit in these states. 

A wrongful death lawsuit is often the only way that families can be compensated for damages incurred due to negligence. If you’ve incurred losses due to the death of a family member, contact an attorney who specializes in wrongful death claims.