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Can I Sue For Wrongful Death?

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Wrongful death lawsuits are not simply available to provide compensation to someone who is suffering from a loss, but also serve a vital role of acting as a deterrent to the defendant for negligent behavior.

How the Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works

Wrongful death claims follow a similar process to personal injury claims. The plaintiff will need to demonstrate that the defendant had a duty of care. Then, the defendant will need to be shown to have breached that duty of care. The difference is that this breach will have caused a death rather than causing a personal injury. Also, while with the personal injury case, the lawsuit is filed by the individual who experienced an injury, with the wrongful death case, the lawsuit is filed by the survivors of the victim.

Every state has a system in place where someone can sue for the death of another. However, who can sue will vary from state to state. The two systems are the Loss-to-Estate system and the Lord Campbell system.


With a Loss-to-Estate system, only someone who is a part of the victim's estate can sue for wrongful death. Through probate court, a representative is responsible for administering a descendent's assets. The representative is responsible for bringing the lawsuit forth under his or her name. Then, anything that is awarded for the wrongful death is placed in a special trust so that the compensation can be distributed to all of the beneficiaries.

Lord Campbell

In other states with a statute that is based on the Lord Campbell system, the courts designate a beneficiary based on a relationship with the deceased. This is most often a spouse or child. The rights are only extended to the first class if someone is within this class. Then, if someone is not in that class, the rights are extended to other beneficiaries.

Usually, beneficiaries in the next class will be parents, extended relatives and those who are financial dependents. Closer relatives are considered before more distant relatives. Those who are the most financially dependent are often given the most priority.

Filing the Lawsuit

If you believe that you should be the beneficiary of a wrongful death incident, you will need to discuss this with a wrongful death lawyer. The factors that will influence how much you will be compensated for can include the burial costs, loss of companionship, loss of an expected income, the medical costs prior to the loved one's death and the loss of any services provided. Once the monetary value of these factors are assessed, you can begin the process of receiving compensation.