Who Can Sue in a Wrongful Death Case?

A wrongful death claim can be filed on behalf of the survivors who are suffering damage from the death of their loved one. The representative is generally the executor of the victim’s estate.

These people are considered “real parties in interest” in legal terms, and often vary in different states. Again, keep in mind that all cases are unique are sometimes this may differ depending on the situation.

The people that would have the authority to file a wrongful death suit, would be:
  • Immediate family members. Immediate family members like spouses and children and parents of unmarried children can recover under wrongful death.
  • Life partners, financial dependents, and putative spouses. A domestic or life partner, anyone who was financially dependent on the decedent, and a "putative spouse" (a person who had a good faith belief that he or she was married to the victim) have a right of compensation. This is in some states.
  • Distant family members. Some states allow more distant family members, such as brothers, sisters, and grandparents, to bring wrongful death lawsuits. For example, a grandparent who is raising a child may be able to bring an action (which is why all cases are unique and differ based on the situation).
  • Someone who suffer financially. Some states allow all persons who suffer financially from the death to bring a wrongful death action for lost care or support, even if they are not related by blood or marriage to the victim.
  • Parents of a deceased fetus. In Washington State, the death of a fetus can be the basis for a wrongful death suit. In several other states, parents cannot bring a wrongful death action to recover for financial and emotional losses resulting from the death of a fetus. This is all dependent on the state laws.

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