If surviving family members disagree on whether or not to pursue legal action after a wrongful death, other survivors’ rights to bring a lawsuit may be affected if the survivors were closer relatives to the deceased. However, this varies from state to state.

In many states, lawsuits can only be brought by spouses and minor children, and if the deceased was not married, then adult children, parents, or further distant relatives may file a lawsuit. If you have questions about whether you may qualify, contact a wrongful death lawyer at The Ferraro Law Firm for a free legal consultation.

Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Ultimately, each state decides who can sue for wrongful death. In some states, wrongful death law has evolved from only allowing spouses and children to file a wrongful death claim to include more distant relatives. The scope of the types of damages that may be recovered has also been broadened, as well as who may recover them.

How Does Wrongful Death Law Differ by State?

There are state statutes that allow more distant family members to bring a wrongful death claim, including grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. In Maryland for example, primary beneficiaries include the surviving spouse, children, or parent while secondary beneficiaries include siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and other relatives. Both primary and secondary beneficiaries can bring wrongful death lawsuits.

Other states limit wrongful death claims to the immediate family of the victim. In Washington, lawsuits can only be filed by the victim’s personal representative, spouse, and children.

Some states also allow a financially dependent life partner or domestic partner to file a wrongful death lawsuit, even if they were not married, while others only permit a victim’s spouse to sue for wrongful death. In New Hampshire, “any person interested in the estate of the deceased” can bring a wrongful death lawsuit to court.

Certain states divide relatives into classes ranked by priority for a wrongful death lawsuit. An example of this would be Colorado allowing a victim’s spouse a year to file for wrongful death, and if he/she does not in that time, then allowing the victim’s children to file.

Which States Require Personal Representatives to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In many states, only a personal representative or executor of the victim’s estate can file a lawsuit. This can be an individual or company, like a bank, appointed to manage the estate either by the victim’s will or by court order. Illinois, Indiana, Maine, and Massachusetts all require an executor or personal representative to bring forward a claim, amongst many other states. In Florida, the personal representative must bring forth a lawsuit on behalf of the victim’s spouse, children, and parents.

Why Choose The Ferraro Law Firm?

In these situations, you may feel overwhelmed and confused by the loss of your loved one and the complexity of wrongful death law. Having a proven wrongful death attorney on your side to handle the legalities of your case and fight to protect you and your lost loved one’s rights allows you to take care of yourself and your family during this difficult time.

Our wrongful death lawyers have represented families across the country and recovered billions on behalf of their lost loved ones. Contact us today for a free case review to learn more about how we may be able to help you.