Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim? Exploring Eligibility


Losing a loved one is one of the hardest experiences anyone can go through. However, this loss becomes even more painful when the individual dies due to another person’s negligence or misconduct. In such instances, pursuing a wrongful death claim may be necessary to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions and provide financial compensation to surviving family members at the very least. 

The services of a wrongful death lawyer should then be hired to understand the process of filing such a claim since it could add further to the terrible experiences that the victim or their families are already experiencing. Read on to know more. 

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death occurs when someone dies due to someone else’s negligent or intentional actions. The deceased’s family members or personal representatives may file a lawsuit against those responsible for the death, seeking damages that compensate them for any losses they have experienced.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In most states, surviving spouses, children, or parents of the deceased can file wrongful death claims on behalf of their loved ones. However, eligibility depends on state law because each state has different laws regarding who can sue in wrongful death cases.

In some states, only immediate family members are allowed to bring forth lawsuits; in others, distant relatives like siblings might also be authorized under certain circumstances. A local attorney could help determine your eligibility under state law based on your relationship with the deceased.

Surviving Spouses

Surviving spouses usually have priority over anyone else in filing wrongful death claims; this means that if there’s a surviving spouse, they get first preference over other people, including biological children and parents, when it comes to filing lawsuits on behalf of the dead spouse as long as the marriage was legally recognized.


If there isn’t any surviving spouse of the deceased, biological or adopted children are next in line and usually require parental permission from both parents (if any) before bringing forth an action suit towards getting compensation. 


If the deceased person is unmarried and has no biological or adopted children, the individual’s parents can bring forth wrongful death claims under certain circumstances. For instance, in some states, parents are only eligible if their child is a minor.

Personal Representative

Suppose no immediate family member can file a lawsuit after someone’s death. In that case, the estate executor/administrator or personal representative may pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased estate.

What Damages Can You Claim In Wrongful Death Cases?

The damages that plaintiffs can recover for wrongful deaths will depend on state law; these could be:

  • Loss of Earnings: Surviving family members might be eligible to receive compensation for their loved one’s loss of future earnings, including potential wages and benefits that they could have reasonably expected had they not died due to wrongful actions.
  • Funeral/Burial Costs: The cost of a funeral service within an acceptable time frame following their loved one’s passing would be compensated.
  • Medical Expenses: If, during the episodes leading up to the person’s death, medical expenses were incurred due to someone else’s negligence or fault that caused them harm, those expenses can also be claimed as part of compensation.
  • Non-financial damages could include things like “pain and suffering” by surviving family members caused by the consequences of losing a loved one, such as emotional trauma.

Are There Any Exceptions To Filing A Wrongful Death Claim?

Yes. There are exceptions where even surviving spouses, children, or parents might not meet the eligibility criteria required by law when trying to sue over someone else’s death, depending on the circumstances surrounding each case. Below we’ve outlined some examples:

Statute Of Limitations

Each US state has laws dictating how long folks left behind have before bringing forth legal action – on average, it tends to be between 2 and 3 years from when a proximate cause happened that led directly (or indirectly) to someone’s wrongful death. Failure to act within this timeframe would result in such a case being time-barred and hence can’t be pursued later, or it might lead to evidence becoming stale and losing strength over time.

Criminal vs. Civil Procedure

A criminal charge may need to be brought forth first before filing suit in court, particularly if the person responsible for the death also committed crimes that led directly or indirectly to the cause of the death of the deceased. In such instances, providing evidence pinpointing wrongdoers’ blame and getting witness testimony could become a priority so that they face justice rather than just compensation measures.


Wrongful death claims aim to compensate for losses suffered by surviving family members due to somebody else’s fault, negligence, or misconduct. But remember, there are limitations and exceptions when pursuing these legal actions, which is why you must consult with an experienced attorney specializing in wrongful death cases if you have further questions about eligibility or limitations within your jurisdiction.



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