If you are dealing with the horrific aftermath of a loved one passing away due to the negligence of another, money is likely the last thing on your mind. No amount of money can truly compensate you for losing a loved one. Even so, in these situations, a wrongful death lawsuit may be necessary, especially if your deceased loved one was supporting you financially. The first step in the process is to make sure that you have statutory standing to bring such a suit.
Family members that have standing
Every state has different statutes that govern which family members have standing to bring wrongful death lawsuits. It’s important to consult your specific state’s statute – or consult an attorney – in order to make sure that you qualify.
In general, however, there are a few key people that qualify in every state – such as a surviving spouse and children, and the executor of the deceased’s estate. An executor that is not a family member can only bring a wrongful death action on behalf of statutorily recognized family members, not for their own benefit.
Some states recognize parents and siblings as having equal standing with spouses and children, while others allow parents and siblings to bring suit only if the decedent left behind no surviving spouse or children. Some states also grant standing to other people – even non-family members – who depended upon the decedent for financial support.
What can be recovered
In the event of a successful wrongful death suit, most states allow the plaintiffs to recover a combination of the following types of compensation:
- Loss of financial support (which will be based on an estimate of the deceased’s potential earning capacity)
- Loss of companionship, advice, and guidance (especially for spouse and children)
- Mental anguish
- Loss of prospective inheritance (for children)
- Funeral expenses
When the carelessness or negligence of another result in the death of an innocent person, justice demands that the responsible party take care of the sudden and unanticipated financial needs of the deceased’s family. The legal system provides the grieving family with the process that they can use to seek that compensation.