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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a person dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another, the surviving family members or the estate can pursue a claim known as a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of legal action seeks compensation for the survivors' loss, such as lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.

However, not everyone can file this type of claim. The eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit varies by state, but general guidelines exist on who is considered a legitimate plaintiff.

Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful death claims are governed by statute, meaning the laws are specific to each state. Generally, these laws are designed to compensate close family members or the deceased's estate for their death's financial and emotional impact.

It’s important to understand that wrongful death lawsuits are a civil action, separate from any criminal charges that might be pursued by the state.

Eligible Parties to File a Wrongful Death Claim

1. Immediate Family Members

In all states, immediate family members like spouses and children, including adopted children, can file wrongful death suits. Parents of unmarried children can also sue for wrongful death.

2. Life Partners and Financial Dependents

In some states, a domestic or life partner, anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased, and even those who suffer financially from the death, may have a right to recovery. This can include distant family members or even non-relatives in certain circumstances.

3. Distant Family Members

Some states also allow more distant family members, such as siblings or grandparents, to file wrongful death lawsuits. The laws vary significantly, however, and it’s important to consult local laws to understand who is eligible.

4. All Persons Who Suffer Financially

In a few states, any person who suffers financially from the death may have a right to bring a wrongful death action for lost care or support, even if they are not related by blood or marriage to the victim.

5. Parents of a Deceased Fetus

The issue of whether parents can sue for wrongful death if their fetus dies is highly controversial and varies widely between states.

Some states allow parents to file if the fetus was viable, meaning it could have lived outside the womb at the time of death, while others do not support such claims.

The Role of the Personal Representative

In many states, the lawsuit must be filed by a personal representative of the deceased's estate. This representative acts on behalf of the survivors interested in the estate, such as family members or other dependents. The personal representative might be specified in the deceased’s will or appointed by the court.

If you believe you have a valid wrongful death claim, consult with an experienced attorney who understands your state's specific laws.

Need Legal Help?

Have you lost a loved one due to someone else's negligence? Don't wait—contact The Roth Firm, LLC now to learn if you can file a claim and seek the compensation and justice your family deserves.

Call us at (404) 777-4899 to learn more!