Wrongful death occurs when there is reason to believe that an individual died because of the negligence or intentional actions of another party. This civil measure may be pursued even as a criminal investigation is underway. One question that many people have is who has a legal right to hire a personal injury attorney and seek this type of action. In many states, specific classes of individuals may do so, generally when other classes have passed away. Here are some examples of who may take this action on behalf of the recently deceased.
If the deceased was legally married at the time of the death, the spouse may file a wrongful death suit. An attorney can go over the evidence available and determine how the information complies with the standards and qualifications set in place by the court that will hear the case.
If the deceased was not married at the time of death, a child also has the right to seek some sort of compensation from the perpetrator. The child in question may be the natural issue of the deceased parent, or an adopted child.
If the deceased was not married and does not have any children, one or both parents of the victim can initiate a wrongful death suit. This is true even when the person being held responsible for the death is the spouse of the deceased. For example, if a husband is standing trial for the murder of his wife, the parents of the dead spouse may file a civil wrongful death suit against the husband. Even if the criminal trial does not result in a conviction, it is still possible for the parents to obtain a judgment in their favor.
Many courts recognize spouses, children, and parents as close relatives. When the victim does not have any living relatives who are legally considered close, it is possible what is considered distant relatives to file the suit. Grandparents are a prime example. It is possible for one or more grandparents to seek damages on behalf of the victim.
Brothers and sisters are also legally considered distant relatives and may file suit when there are no close relatives to seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. As with the grandparents, siblings may choose this course of action as a way to provide for any minor children of the deceased that they may care for over the next several years.
Domestic or Life Partners
Many states recognized the rights of domestic partners to seek some type of redress after a partner dies due to the intentional acts or negligence of another party. Since the financial stability of the remaining partner may be in jeopardy, this action could serve two purposes. One would be to provide for the remaining partner while he or she adjusts to life without sharing expenses with another person, and to also ensure that the responsible party does not escape some type of punishment.
The Parents of a Fetus
In many jurisdictions, parents who were expecting and lose the child due to the actions or lack of proper action on the part of another individual also have the right to sue for wrongful death. As in other instances, the suit may focus on damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses associated with treatments up to the point of death, burial expenses, and future expenses for grief counseling.
The Estate of the Deceased
When the deceased had carefully made plans for his or her estate, it is possible for the administrator or executor of that estate to file a wrongful death case against the responsible party. This is often the case when the structure of the estate is to provide support to beneficiaries as identified in the estate documents.
When death takes place because of irresponsible actions on the part of another individual or entity, there is a good chance that someone can file a wrongful death case on behalf of the deceased. Talk with a lawyer who is well-versed with the laws and procedures that apply in the local jurisdiction. It will not take long to determine if there are grounds for the case and who can serve as the plaintiff.