Dealing with the death of a loved one is a difficult situation that is made worse when the death could have been prevented. If your family member died as the result of another person’s or company’s negligence, you or someone you know may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The following outlines who has the legal right to do so.

When Decedents Have a Will

When someone with a will passes away, the court will have to appoint an executor of that will. Many states require that with an executor of will, that executor is the sole person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

When Decedents Do Not Have a Will

The laws vary by state in regards to who has the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of someone who passes away without a will in lace. Some basic guidelines include the following.

  • Every state allows immediate family members to file a claim.
  • The spouse of the decedent is generally the person who files the suit if the decedent was married at the time of death.
  • If the decedent had adult children, those children can file in some states.
  • Parents of a minor child who passes away are typically the party to file a lawsuit.
  • Some states allow domestic partners to file for wrongful death.
  • Grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings can file in some states if the decedent was a single adult.

If the person who passes away meets multiple guidelines, such as being a married adult with adult children, family members may get into a dispute about who gets to file. A court will generally not allow more than one, so if family members do decide to fight over it, the court will consolidate the claims and move forward with one. You may need the help of an attorney to work through this situation, and it could be more beneficial to work together with your living loved ones in order to come to a solution that works for everybody.

Getting Started Quickly

There is a different statute of limitations in every state regarding when someone can and cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit. Some only allow one year from the time of death, so it’s important if you or a family member plan to proceed with a lawsuit, you get started right away. A wrongful death attorney can assist you in moving forward with your lawsuit, so get started today and contact your attorney.