Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

If someone you love has recently passed away due to the intentional, negligent, or reckless actions of another person or organization, you may be able to file a lawsuit and receive compensation. If you are not an immediate family member however it may be confusing to understand if you’re able to file a lawsuit or not.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death lawsuits are still a fairly new concept for this country. When our country was established, the laws brought from England to the United States did not include this type of lawsuit. It’s only been in the last century that the state and federal courts have allowed the right to sue a person or organization when a person dies as a result of the legal fault of someone else.

A wrongful death claim can include all types of fatal accidents. Anything from a car accident to death at work or even medical malpractice can fall under a wrongful death claim.  According to the law, governmental agencies, individuals, or companies can all legally be at fault for negligent actions that result in the death of someone.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Suit?

The survivors of the decedent who suffer damage as a result of the decedent’s death are called “real parties in interest.” A wrongful death claim must be filed by a representative on behalf of these “real parties in interest”. In most cases, the representative will be the executor of the estate for the decedent.  While “the real party in interest” differs depending on which state you live in, some of those might include the following.

  • Immediate family members.  Common across all states, immediate family members such as children or spouses – and parents of unmarried children – can seek damages under wrongful death lawsuits. This includes adopted children as well.
  • Distant family members.  Depending on the state, distant family members may be able to bring wrongful death suits to court. This can include brothers, sisters, or even grandparents depending on the situation.
  • Financial dependents, life partners, and putative spouses.  Some states make provisions for people who were financially dependent on the decedent but perhaps were not married. For example, some states still observe common law marriage.
  • Parents of a deceased fetus. Certain states will allow parents of a deceased fetus to file a wrongful death suit for financial and emotional losses as a result of the death. Many states, however, will only allow a wrongful death suit if the child died after birth.

If someone you love has recently died through the actions of someone else, intentional or not, make sure to speak to an experienced wrongful death attorney, like a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Salt Lake City, UT, to discuss your options.


Thank you to the experts at Rasmussen & Miner for their insight into wrongful death and the law.


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