Wrongful Death

If the wrongful conduct of a person or persons caused someone to be killed, the person’s relatives (Heir and Descendants) make take legal action against the responsible person for the death. This type of claim is governed by state laws that may differ from state to state. State statutes will define who may sue for wrongful death and the limits that may be applied to an award or damages.

Wrongful Death statutes originated to provide financial support for widows and orphans and to help motivate people to exercise care to prevent injuries.  Wrongful death claims are separate from criminal charges. A person can be acquitted of murder but, can be sued in a civil court for wrongful death.

A wrongful death claim can be intentional or unintentional act that caused the injury that ended in death.  An example would be a driver in an accident that unintentionally caused a death can be liable for negligence.  A person who may have a swimming pool but it is not enclosed and a child is attracted to the pool and drowns.  The neglectful act of the owner of not enclosing the pool can cause them to be held liable for the omission or failure of the act. Unborn fetus does not apply to the wrongful death statutes.  A distinct legal status of an individual is when they are born alive. If a baby is born and then dies as a result of the injury that happened before the birth a wrongful death action can be brought.

Who May Sue

The State statute enumerates who is entitled to sue for wrongful death. Many statutes identify the surviving spouse, next of kin, or children as persons who may sue.  In the event there is a spousal separation, the surviving spouse may not sue if the separation was dissertation or failure to provide support.

Children may bring a suit for the wrongful death of parents and parent for their children. However, in some states the statutes say only minor children may bring the wrongful death suit. In other states the statue does not allow parents to bring a wrongful death suit if the child is an adult and is independent or married.