Handling a wrongful death lawsuit for your loved one

4 min read

Potential benefits of a wrongful death lawsuit

  • Holding someone accountable and responsible for your loved one’s death.

  • Closure and comfort for your family.

  • Financial compensation for your loss to assist with any monetary damages caused by the wrongful death of your loved one.

If a loved one has died in an accident or other mishap, and you believe that someone else may have been at fault, you may want to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. This is a way of holding the people who may have caused your loved one’s death responsible, and potentially of receiving some compensation for what they put your family through.

Taking up legal proceedings while you are still grieving for your loved one may seem like a lot to handle. A wrongful death lawsuit in particular can sound like something that you’d rather just avoid completely. It is not as scary as it sounds, however, and if you decide to pursue a suit, it may provide some needed closure and comfort to your family. 

What is a wrongful death claim? 

As a representative of your loved one’s estate, a surviving spouse, or close family member, you may file a wrongful death claim against any person or organization who may be legally at fault for your loved one’s death, in order to receive financial compensation for your loss. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action, and can be filed whether or not there have been criminal charges as well.

As you might imagine, there are numerous situations which could result in a wrongful death lawsuit, ranging from incidents such as car accidents to more complicated cases like medical malpractice. 

Every state has its own laws surrounding wrongful death cases. For example, different states have different laws about who exactly is able to file the wrongful death claim. Be sure to investigate the specific laws in your state and to consult a lawyer when you are ready to file your claim.

Although you can technically file a wrongful death claim on your own, it is highly recommended that you work with an attorney. A brief search should point you toward a trusted and experienced local attorney who specializes in these types of cases.

Who can sue whom? 

As mentioned above, different states have different rules about who can file a wrongful death claim. In every state, spouses, children, or parents can act as the “real parties in interest,” meaning the ones who can sue. In addition, some states allow domestic partners, siblings, or financial dependents to bring a wrongful death action. 

A wrongful death lawsuit may be brought against a wide range of people or organizations, depending on the circumstances. Any person or facility involved in the negligence of care, the intentional or accidental causing of harm, or a medical mishap can be sued. 

For example, let’s say that your loved one was the victim of a car accident caused by a drunk driver. In this case, the defendants might include not only the driver of the vehicle, but also the proprietor of the location that served alcohol to that driver, as well as a government agency that may have failed to provide adequate signage to indicate a road hazard. As this example illustrates, there will likely be many moving parts to such a lawsuit, which is another reason why enlisting the help of a lawyer is crucial.

How compensation works

As a surviving family member, you are suing in order to claim compensation to assist with any monetary damages caused by the wrongful death of your loved one. These might include lost wages that you relied on your loved one for, the cost of the funeral service, and any other financial burdens that you are struggling with due to your loss. 

Each state has different amounts that are legally deemed fair compensation for the damages incurred by an instance of wrongful death. Speak with your attorney about your financial expectations and how they line up with the specific rules in your state. 

Wrongful death laws are in place to assist you in this tough time, and this may be the best way to get the comfort and compensation you and your family deserves.

It can be a difficult situation to traverse, and legal proceedings may be the farthest thing from your mind while grieving, but it is important to remember that such claims have deadlines.

You don’t want to put it off and then realize later on that it was something you would have wanted to pursue. The sooner you begin the process, therefore, the better.

Most importantly, take the time to find a trustworthy attorney who can walk you through every aspect of what you need to know.

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.