When a family member dies as a result of a negligent or wrongful act of another person, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the alleged at-fault party. Every state has wrongful death laws that give individuals a right to sue for damages resulting from the death of loved ones. However, individuals who are legally allowed to file a wrongful death suit varies state by state. Learn how a wrongful death attorney can help you file paperwork, advise you of your rights and help you get justice for your loved one.
In most states, wrongful death statutes which allow a wrongful death claim to only be filed by a designated beneficiary. This designated beneficiary is drawn from those with a specific relationship to the deceased. Designated beneficiaries can vary among states but may include:
- Immediate family members (e.g., spouse, parents, children and adopted children, domestic partner)
- Distant family members (e.g., grandparents and siblings)
- Parents of a deceased fetus
- Domestic or life partners, and
- Financial dependents and individuals left with financial difficulty as a result of the deceased’s death
Other states have wrongful death statutes that allow a claim to only be filed by a deceased person’s estate. In this case, the claim would be filed an individual appointed by the probate court to administer the estate’s assets- a personal representative. The personal representative would file the suit under his name but would put any damages awarded into a trust for disbursement to designated beneficiaries.
If the deceased had a will when he died, a court-appointed executor or personal representative would administer his estate. In the most states, the executive or personal representative may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased.
Time is of the Essence
If you are considering filing a wrongful death claim, you must not delay in retaining legal representation. You must file your claim within a certain time frame. Every state has its own statute of limitations and time frames for filing wrongful death suits, but no state has a time frame that is shorter than a year. The one exception is if a wrongful death claim involves the government or a government employee who is alleged to have contributed to the death of the deceased, in which case you may need to file a “notice of claim” or similar documentation to the government within three months of the date of the deceased.
If you do not file a wrongful death claim in time, you could lose the right to collect damages for your loved one’s death. A wrongful death attorney can advise you of your rights and legal options, and he can make sure the pertinent paperwork is completed and filed in a timely manner so that you do not lose your opportunity to get justice for your loved one.
If you have lost a loved one recently through the fault of another, one of our wrongful death attorneys will be happy to discuss your claim and work diligently on your behalf. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.