When death occurs as a result of an accident, the resulting lawsuit is referred to as a “wrongful death” suit. If the accident was caused by the negligence or deliberate actions of another, the survivors of the deceased party have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for their loss.
The attorneys at Rue & Ziffra can guide you through your unimaginable loss. Our lawyers offer over 100 years of combined experience. We provide you with the strong and compassionate representation for justice that you and your family deserve during this difficult time. You can speak with an attorney 24/7 at 800-526-4711 to answer your questions and begin your road to recovery.
There are different types of insurance policies or types of coverage that are held by the at-fault party. These coverage types are extremely important because they will often determine whether a wrongful death case can be successfully pursued. Additionally, there are different types of insurance benefits that may be available to you or other surviving family members if the death of your loved one is caused by a motor vehicle accident.
State laws vary on who may bring wrongful death lawsuits. In all states, close family members like spouses and children and parents can bring wrongful death actions. If children are minors, state law may require them to have a legal guardian, called a guardian ad litem, appointed to look out for their interests in the lawsuit. Some states allow more distant family members, such as grandparents, to bring wrongful death lawsuits. For example, a grandparent who is raising a child may be able to bring an action in the way a parent would in the same situation. Some states also allow legal dependents who suffer financial injury from the death to bring a wrongful death action for lost care or support.
If the deceased has minor children, then they are considered beneficiaries of the estate and a wrongful death action is pursued on behalf of the children. When minor children are involved, they will have a claim for expected contributions that the deceased parent would have made to them until age 18, the age of majority. For example, contributions for basic living necessities and other expenses like school and/or college may also be recoverable. Each child also has a monetary claim for the loss of that child’s relationship with the deceased parent. This is also called a loss of consortium claim, which encompasses the child’s loss of love, protection, guidance, and affection that would have been expected from the deceased parent.
A surviving adult child may also have a claim for the wrongful death of a parent. Unless the adult child was financially dependent on the parent, the claim is usually limited to the child’s loss of his or her relationship with the parent. This is a subjective loss, so the value of the claim will depend on the strength of the relationship between the adult child and the deceased parent. Generally, the stronger and closer the relationship, the higher the value of the claim. In most cases, a minor child’s claim for the loss of a parent will be much higher than the claim of an adult child. This is because the minor child is usually much more financially and emotionally dependent on the deceased parent so the parent’s death is considered a much more significant and damaging loss to the minor child.
In the case of surviving minor children, the settlement of a wrongful death action must be approved by the court. Laws in some states require that all minor claims be investigated by a person called a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) who then gives a recommendation to the court on whether the settlement is reasonable and should be approved. The court will also decide how the settlement funds will be used and/or invested on behalf of each minor child. The purpose behind this law is to make sure that the minor’s interests are being protected and that the child will have access to the settlement funds when the child reaches age 18.