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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

If a family member dies because of a wrongful act or negligence of another person, you may be able to pursue a wrongful death case. The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to seek compensation for losses caused by the death of another person. However, when a person dies because of negligence, who can file a claim?

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a person dies or is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another, which also includes murder, the surviving members of the victim’s family may sue for “wrongful death.” Most wrongful death lawsuits come after the conclusion of a criminal trial and utilize similar evidence but with a lower standard of proof. Regardless, someone found liable for wrongful death may or may not be convicted of a crime associated with that death.

Who Can Bring a Case?

Although it’s a fairly simple question, the answer is not as simple, since who can file a wrongful death claim varies from state to state. Most states’ laws provide that the beneficiaries of the deceased are able to file a claim, which includes a spouse, children and adopted children, parents of unmarried children, siblings, domestic partners, grandparents and financial dependents.

There is a wide array of people that are closely related to the deceased and most states put those individuals into classes based on how close they are to the decedent. For instance, the first class able to bring a case forward would include a spouse or children. If the decedent has no living relatives, then there may be limited circumstances where a dependent who is not a blood relative may be able to bring a claim.

Losses to Estate System

Some states use what is called the losses to estate system, which limits the party that can file a wrongful death claim to the estate itself, rather than its beneficiaries. In these states, a representative of the estate can bring forth a case seeking compensation for losses because of the death of the decedent. The personal representative files the wrongful death case under their own name but any damages recovered would be dispersed to the estate’s beneficiaries.

In Florida, to file a wrongful death suit you have to be the decedent’s children, spouse or a blood relative that is partially or fully dependent.

If you have questions about wrongful death cases, or if you think you have a case, call Steinberg Law for a free consultation.