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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?

By Walton Law APCJune 27, 2024No Comments
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit

Losing a loved one is an incredibly painful experience, made even more difficult when the negligence or wrongful actions of another party caused their death. While no amount of compensation can bring back a lost loved one, filing a wrongful death suit can provide some measure of financial security for the victim’s family.

If you find yourself in this heartbreaking situation, it can help to realize you have rights to legal relief. However, it can be difficult to know who can file a wrongful death suit and what steps you need to take to seek justice.

An experienced Snohomish wrongful death attorney can help you understand the legal aspects of wrongful death suits and manage the process.

What is a Wrongful Death Suit?

A wrongful death suit is a legal claim filed by the surviving family members of a deceased person against the party responsible for their death. This type of lawsuit seeks to hold the at-fault party accountable for their actions or negligence and provide financial compensation to the victim’s family for their losses. Wrongful death lawsuits can arise from a variety of circumstances, including car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, product liability, and criminal acts.

Understanding the Wrongful Death Eligibility Criteria

While laws regarding wrongful death suits can vary from state to state, there are some general eligibility criteria that most jurisdictions require. These criteria typically include:

  • Relationship to the deceased: Generally, only certain family members or dependents of the deceased can file a wrongful death suit. Commonly recognized eligible parties include spouses, children (including adopted and stepchildren), parents, and sometimes siblings.
  • Proof of negligence or wrongful action: To file a wrongful death suit, you must establish that the negligence or wrongful actions of another party caused the death. This generally requires gathering evidence and presenting a solid case to support your claim.
  • Time limitations: Wrongful death suits must be filed within a specified time period, known as the statute of limitations. The period can vary by jurisdiction, but it is typically within two to three years from the date of the victim’s death. Failing to file within this timeframe may result in your case being barred from proceeding.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In general, a wrongful death claim is viable if the deceased party could have filed a personal injury claim had they survived their injuries. However, only certain parties to the deceased can file a wrongful death claim. These parties can vary based on the jurisdiction of the incident that caused the decedent’s death, but generally speaking, the following parties may have the legal right to file a wrongful death claim:

Immediate Family Members

File a Wrongful Death SuitIn most jurisdictions, immediate family members have the right to file a wrongful death suit. Immediate family members typically include the deceased person’s spouse, domestic partner, children, and parents. These individuals are considered to have a close and direct relationship with the deceased, making them eligible to seek legal recourse for the loss.

Spouses and Domestic Partners

Spouses and domestic partners are often granted the primary right to file a wrongful death suit. They are considered the closest and most directly impacted by the loss of their loved one. Spouses and domestic partners may seek damages for the loss of companionship, financial support, emotional distress, and other related losses.


Children, including adopted and stepchildren, also have the right to file a wrongful death suit. They may seek compensation for the loss of parental guidance, financial support, and the emotional impact of losing a parent. It is important to note that minors typically need a legal guardian or representative to file the lawsuit.


Parents of the deceased person are generally eligible to file a wrongful death suit as well. They may seek damages for the emotional trauma, loss of companionship, and financial support that they would have received from their child. However, parents’ specific rights and eligibility may vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Dependents and Financial Dependents

In some cases, individuals who were financially dependent on the deceased may also be eligible to file a wrongful death suit. This includes individuals who rely on the deceased person for financial support, such as a dependent spouse, minor children, or other family members. These individuals may seek compensation for the loss of financial security and support resulting from the death.

Other Potential Parties

While immediate family members are typically the primary parties eligible to file a wrongful death suit, there may be other potential parties as well. This can include siblings, grandparents, or anyone else who can demonstrate a substantial personal or financial loss due to the death. In some cases, close friends or individuals who were financially supported by the deceased may also have grounds to file a wrongful death suit.

Be sure to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney to fully understand your rights and eligibility to file a wrongful death suit. They can guide you through every step of the legal process and seek the compensation you deserve for the loss of your loved one.

Causes of Wrongful Deaths

Wrongful deaths can occur due to a wide range of circumstances and can result from various types of accidents or incidents. Some common causes of wrongful deaths include:

Car Accidents

Car crashes are one of the leading causes of wrongful deaths. When a driver’s negligence or recklessness leads to a fatal accident, the surviving family members may have grounds for a wrongful death claim.

Truck Accidents

Commercial trucks are the most dangerous vehicles on our roads due to their size, weight, and maneuverability challenges. When professional truck drivers fail to comply with traffic laws, federal trucking regulations, and general standards of care, the drivers and trucking companies can be liable for any fatalities that result in crashes.

Motorcycle and Bicycle Accidents

While motorcyclists and bicyclists have the right to safely share the road, other drivers often hit them, causing devastating injuries. These collisions are often fatal, as a small bike is no match for a large motor vehicle.

Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrians are even more at risk of fatal collisions than cyclists, as they do not even have a helmet or other protective gear to help prevent severe injuries when a motor vehicle hits them.

Criminal Acts

In some cases, a wrongful death may result from intentional acts, such as assault, murder, or manslaughter. Even if there is a separate criminal case, surviving family members can pursue a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for their loss.

Potential Parties Liable for Wrongful Deaths

Wrongful Death Determining liability in a wrongful death case can be complex and requires a thorough investigation. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, the following parties may be held responsible:


The person directly responsible for causing the death may be held liable for wrongful death. This can be a negligent driver, a healthcare professional, an employer, or an individual who commits a criminal act.

Companies and Organizations

If the death occurred due to a company or organization’s negligence, they may be held accountable. This can include employers, healthcare facilities, manufacturers, and other entities that contributed to the circumstances leading to the fatal event.

Government Agencies

Sometimes, a government agency may be held responsible for a wrongful death. For example, if the death occurred due to a government entity’s failure to maintain safe roads or inadequate supervision in a public facility.


Professionals who provide services to individuals, such as doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers, may be held liable for wrongful death if their actions or omissions lead to a fatal outcome. This falls under the umbrella of medical malpractice.

Be sure to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney who can help identify the parties responsible for your loved one’s death and guide you through the legal process.

Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

One of the essential aspects of a wrongful death suit is seeking compensation for the damages suffered by the surviving family members. While monetary compensation cannot replace a lost loved one, it can help ease the financial burden caused by the death. Common types of damages in wrongful death cases include:

Medical Expenses

If the deceased received medical treatment before succumbing to their injuries, the family may be compensated for the medical expenses incurred.

Funeral and Burial Costs

The costs associated with laying a loved one to rest can be substantial. Wrongful death compensation often includes coverage for funeral and burial expenses.

Loss of Income

The sudden loss of a family member can result in significant financial hardship. Wrongful death damages may include the economic losses incurred due to the deceased’s lost income and future earnings.

Loss of Consortium

Wrongful death damages can also compensate for the loss of companionship, guidance, and support that the deceased would have provided to their family members.

Pain and Suffering

Surviving family members may be eligible for compensation for the emotional pain, suffering, and mental anguish caused by the loss of their loved one.

An experienced wrongful death attorney can assess your case’s specific circumstances and pursue the full extent of damages you are entitled to.

The Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Claims

It is important to be aware that there is limited time to file a wrongful death claim. Each state has its statute of limitations, which sets the deadline for initiating legal action. If you fail to file the lawsuit within the specified time frame, you may lose the right to seek compensation.

The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims varies from state to state, typically ranging from one to three years. However, some exceptions and circumstances can affect this timeline. Consulting with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible is necessary to ensure you meet all the required deadlines.

Seeking Legal Representation for a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful Death ClaimDealing with the ins and outs of a wrongful death suit can be overwhelming, especially while experiencing the emotional toll of losing a loved one. As such, it’s in your best interest to seek the guidance of an experienced wrongful death attorney. They handle this type of legal case and have the skills and resources to provide you with the best possible legal representation.

When choosing a wrongful death attorney, consider the following factors:

Skills and Experience

Look for an attorney with experience in wrongful death cases and a proven track record of successful outcomes. They should have experience handling cases similar to yours, taking into account the specific circumstances and laws of your jurisdiction.

Compassion and Understanding

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is emotionally challenging, and you need an attorney who understands your pain and can provide compassionate support throughout the legal process. Seek out an attorney who not only has the legal skills but also shows genuine empathy and care for your situation.

Resources and Network

A successful wrongful death suit often requires extensive investigative work, expert witnesses, and a strong network of professionals to build a solid case. Choose an attorney who can access these resources and assemble a team of experts to support your claim.

Communication and Transparency

Open and transparent communication is essential throughout the legal process. Look for a responsive attorney who keeps you informed about the progress of your case and explains legal concepts in a way you can understand.

Track Record and Reputation

Research the attorney’s reputation and track record by reading client testimonials and reviews. A lawyer with a solid reputation and a history of successful outcomes will give you confidence in their abilities.

By partnering with the right, wrongful death attorney, you can focus on grieving and healing while leaving the legal aspects of your case in capable hands.

Did You Lose A Loved One to Negligence or Intentional Acts? Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney Today

If you’re ready to pursue a wrongful death suit, an experienced and compassionate personal injury attorney is here to help. They know how to address the challenges of wrongful death cases and are committed to fighting for justice on behalf of victims and their families. Reach out today to schedule your free consultation and get your claim started.