Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

For those that have recently lost a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit might be able to give you the relief that you sorely need. Medical bills, funeral costs, and the future lost wages can add up to a huge economic loss, and while a lawsuit cannot bring back your loved one, it can help make those burdens much less severe. Unfortunately, filing a lawsuit can be a pretty complicated process, so you want to make sure that you have all your ducks in a row before diving in. One of the most important factors that you need to consider is exactly who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. It isn't always clear and it can vary from state to state, but you need to make sure that you are capable of filing or influencing such a lawsuit before proceeding. Here are some general facts to help you get started:  

The Family

While you might imagine that the family is the first in line in every situation, that is not always the case. In some states, the family cannot file directly unless they have the powers of the personal representative. In other states, certain members of the family can file, while others cannot. Children and spouses are able to file in these situations, along with parents in the event that the deceased was actually a minor or a young adult at the time of their death. Distant family members often do not have the power to file a wrongful death lawsuit, although they can potential benefit by working together with closer family members that are able to file a lawsuit.

The most generous of states will allow most immediate family members to file, but that can potentially lead to some complications of its own. For example, if multiple family members wish to file conflicting lawsuits, then the court will need to determine which lawsuit is more valid and which should be thrown out.

The Personal Representative

In almost all cases, the personal representative of the decedent's estate is able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is generally done based on the idea that such a lawsuit should benefit the estate of the deceased, rather than family members who might be trying to exploit a death for their own gain. Ideally, the winnings should go to the estate, where they will be used to pay off funeral costs. After the probate process is complete, the money should eventually find its way into the hands of the decedent's children, surviving spouse, and any other financial dependents. 

For further assistance, contact a local wrongful death attorney, such as one from Burke Schultz Harman & Jenkinson Attorneys at Law.