What Qualifies As a Wrongful Death Claim?

Couple embracing after receiving some bad news.

If a family member or loved one has recently passed, we understand that it’s a trying time of grief for the whole family. It can be especially so if the death came about due to the negligence or action of another individual. While a wrongful death claim may be a hefty legal undertaking, in the long run, the possible damages could give you and your family much peace of mind during this grieving period and allow you to move on as best as possible. Here’s what to know before attempting to file a wrongful death claim.

A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In older times, it was not possible to file a lawsuit on behalf of someone who had passed, even if someone else was at fault. This meant that, while the perpetrator could still end up in jail, the family of the deceased would not be able to receive any financial benefit that may arise from a lawsuit. Nowadays, it is possible to file a suit for a wrongful death. Generally, states have their own laws allowing either relatives of the decedent or a representative of the decedent to file a suit. The damages sought are often related to sorrow, grief, and mental suffering sustained by the decedent’s family.

Who Can File

The laws surrounding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit vary from state to state. Many states still follow the Lord Campbell System, laws that follow the “Lord Campbell’s Act” enacted by the British Parliament in the 19th century. Statutes based upon this act allow that only a designated beneficiary can bring about a wrongful death claim. The beneficiary are generally a class of people stipulated by the specific state’s statute; they are generally determined eligible to file based upon the relationship to the decedent. This might include a widowed spouse or the children of the deceased.

If there are no living relatives in the first class of designated beneficiaries, the benefit to sue will generally be passed to the next class of individuals based on relationship to the decedent. If at the time of the victim’s death, there are no living members of any classes, there is no possibility for a wrongful death claim.

Other states follow a loss-to-estate system, wherein only a representative of the victim’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. Anything collected by the representative would be put into a special trust and dispersed among the beneficiaries of the decedent. States vary in their approaches to assessing losses sustained from a wrongful death.

Contact a Paterson Attorney

If your loved one has recently passed and you believe you’re entitled to damages due to a wrongful death, don’t wait: call an attorney today. We at Peter N. Davis Law are proud to help on behalf of mourning families to get them the damages they deserve and the ability to move on. Contact us, today.