Information For Filing A Wrongful Death Claim
In the event of a death caused by an individual or an organization, the immediate family of the deceased may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the persons responsible. Since the person who died as a result of the incident obviously cannot file a lawsuit against the persons involved, the immediate family members of the victim would be the beneficiaries of any compensation awarded.
A wrongful death is a death caused by the legal action or inaction of another person. The legal concept is a relatively new one, and it was non-existent even as recently as the 19th century. Nowadays however, wrongful death is considered a valid reason for filing a lawsuit and most states in the U.S. have some type of law dealing specifically with wrongful death cases.
There are many scenarios that can warrant a wrongful death claim including:
- vehicular accidents
- medical malpractice
- product liability
Wrongful death can result from the direct and intentional action of an individual, an organization, or a government entity or from neglect by any of the above.
Who can file for a wrongful death claim?
Wrongful death cases are filed by a legal representative of the survivors of the deceased. These people are referred to as “real parties in interest”. The representative assigned to file the lawsuit is generally the executor of the deceased’s estate.
“Real parties in interest” do not necessarily have to be immediate family members. in some cases, wrongful death claims may even be filed on behalf of parties that are not related to the deceased at all. Nevertheless, most cases of wrongful death are filed on behalf of immediate family members. At present, all states in the U.S. allow the spouse and children of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim. This also goes for parents of unmarried children that have died a wrongful death.
In some states, wrongful death claims may be filed by a partner or financial dependent of the deceased even if they are not legally married. Someone who has lived with the deceased for a long time as a spouse may also be eligible to file a wrongful death claim even of they are not actually married. Some state courts also allow distant family members to file a claim for wrongful death.
Sometimes, financial dependence on the deceased may be sufficient reason to file a wrongful death claim. In such cases, the person filing the claim would only have to prove the loss of support and/or care in order to be eligible for a claim.
Parents may also file a wrongful death claim against a doctor or medical care facility for the death of a child, although the guidelines vary from state-to-state. While some states allow parents to file a wrongful death claim for the death of a fetus, other states will only allow such lawsuits for a death that occurred after the child was born.
Respondents in a wrongful death claim
Wrongful death claims can be filed against individuals, companies, government organizations, and employees. In a wrongful death claim involving a vehicle for example, the case may be filed against:
- the person driving the vehicle
- the manufacture of the vehicle
- the local government assigned to build and/or repair the road wherein the accident occurred
- government agencies that failed to provide the public with road hazard warnings
In more extreme cases, a wrongful death claim may even be filed against the people who provided alcohol to a drunken driver involved in a wrongful death accident. Sometimes, even the owner of the establishment from where the alcohol was served would be considered legally liable for a wrongful death