Death is always a hard thing to grapple with, especially when it is a wrongful death situation, where you have to grapple with the fact that someone is directly responsible for the death of someone you care about. Some may choose to let it slide if they deem it not financially worthwhile to pursue, or if there is a lack of proof, but others may be inclined to pursue it regardless, especially if they are more concerned with determining liability than the result of it. One complicated aspect that a lot of people deal with is whether they are even entitled to file on behalf of the person who died. What members of a family can even file?
What qualifies for a wrongful death claim?
First off, before you even begin to ask whether you can file, it is important to determine whether you should even file. After all, even in situations where someone died as a result of another person’s actions, that does not necessarily mean that the person who caused the death was unjustified or remotely willful in doing so. For instance, a person who crashes into another person and ultimately costs them their life due to malfunctioning traffic lights, while being the direct cause of that person’s death, may not be at fault in this situation, so long as they made a reasonable effort to avoid that outcome. Another situation would be if the victim was responsible for their own death. For instance, if they are driving under the influence, someone may wind up killing them in a traffic collision, but it may be determined that the collision is the fault of the victim’s erratic driving. Ultimately, the easiest way to determine whether a wrongful death claim would be worth pursuing is to get a consultation with an attorney who has expertise in this field. Even if the person you would accuse is going through a criminal court case, you can still file for a wrongful death claim in addition to the criminal claims against them. And of course, make sure not to drag your feet on this matter, as there is going to be a statute of limitations involved for such a suit. Having it over and done with as soon as you can is important, not only for the success of the case, but also your mental health as well.
Which family members are entitled to file for a claim?
Besides determining that there is a wrongful death case worth filing in the first place, the next step is to determine who, if anyone, is able to file a wrongful death lawsuit, and one that will be more of a concern depending on how disconnected the person is to the one who passed. The answer to this question may vary depending on where the lawsuit is being filed, but the next of kin is going to take priority in terms of filing. This is typically going to refer to the children of the victim or the spouse. If neither of these apply, the next thing to look at is who is entitled to the victim’s property (through either a will or a trust). At this point, the people who can file expands beyond a person’s spouse and their children to also include one’s parents, siblings, or other relatives, any of whom have such an entitlement. Basically, any family members who has that entitlement can apply under this. Another aspect, one that may not apply to all states, so make sure to check your state’s law on the matter to verify if this applies to you Depending on the law of your state, one may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit if they were financially dependent on the victim, ensuring that this dependent is taken care of in absence of the financial support that they were unduly deprived of. Thus, if you are in this situation, you may be able to file regardless of whether you are a family member or not.