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Wrongful Death – Who can bring an action?

James P. Carey - SiebenCarey "Know Your Rights" AttorneyJanuary 07, 2014

When a family member dies as a result of the negligent act of another, who can bring an action? 

Originally, under “common law” there was no right to sue for damages caused by the death of a family member. Courts reasoned that the claim died with the victim. Over the years, states have enacted “wrongful death statutes” which gives family members the right to claim damages against the person or corporation that caused the death. 

State law varies, but generally, the parties that have a financial interest in the recovery in a wrongful death action are the surviving spouse and next of kin (which generally means the surviving minor children, but can include parents and siblings). 

The first step in a wrongful death action calls for the appointment of a trustee by the court. The family can petition the court to appoint a particular person of their choosing to serve as the trustee. The trustee position is very important because this person is charged with not only pursuing the lawsuit, but also investing and distributing money that is recovered in a verdict or settlement. 

If you have lost a family member and are wondering about your rights, contact one of the wrongful death attorneys in our firm. We have decades of experience in pursuing claims under wrongful death statutes.

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