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Who can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Today, it’s possible to file a wrongful death claim Los Angeles just as it is in most cities across America, but that wasn’t always the case. Previously, the families of people killed in accidents or through harmful intent were left suffering extreme financial burdens. The unexpected death of their loved one often resulted in a sudden loss of income in addition to the cost of paying for the medical care provided before the death, the funeral, and the burial. These expenses, as well as others, often left families in extreme debt, so states created wrongful death clauses to allow families to receive compensation for their losses.

One reason that we can now hire a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer to handle this type of case is because it makes things harder for the perpetrator. When an individual causes another person to become injured either through negligence or intent, that perpetrator can be sued by a Los Angeles personal injury attorney. Therefore, before wrongful death statutes were implemented, it made more financial sense to kill the injured victim. While the perpetrator would still face criminal charges, he wouldn’t have to worry about civil lawsuits. Wrongful death statutes changed that situation in favor of the victims and their families.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
While wrongful death claims are available to compensate families for their losses, it’s incorrect to assume any family member can file such a claim. Before filing a wrongful death claim Los Angeles, it’s important to check the laws in your area and perhaps consult a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer. This is because there are very specific rules governing who can file a claim. Most cities across the country agree that a spouse or minor children of the deceased individual can file a claim, but the laws diverge after this point.

Even among immediate family members, there are differences in opinion on who should be able to file a claim. Some states allow parents to file over the death of an adult child, while others do not. Similarly, laws differ in regard to when a sibling can bring a wrongful death claim. Understanding where we get our laws may help shed light on why this aspect of filing a wrongful death case is so different from state to state.

Some States Follow Lord Campbell’s Act
In 1846, the British Parliament enacted the Lord Campbell System and although it seems rather old, it’s a system many U.S. states still use to this day. The rules adapted from this act and that are in use in most U.S. states dictate that a personal representative must be selected to bring the case. Furthermore, the rules stipulate that this personal representative must have a distinct relationship to the deceased individual. It’s this rule that identifies the surviving spouse or minor children as qualified to file this type of claim.

Each state makes its own determinations about who can bring a wrongful death claim, so you may need to consult with a wrongful death attorney Los Angeles before proceeding. For instance, some states allow grandparents and siblings to file, while other states limit the eligibility to immediate family members. For these purposes, an immediate family member would be one of the following:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Adopted children
  • Parents of unmarried adult children

Newer laws may make provisions that allow parents to file a wrongful death claim over the death of an unborn fetus. Similarly, amendments to the laws in some states allow domestic partners to file a claim. In general terms, those filing the claim must be able to demonstrate a financial loss caused by the death of the individual.

Some States Use a Loss-to-Estate System
As previously mentioned, each state makes its own determinations and not every state uses a variation of the Lord Campbell Act. Other states employ a simpler system that only allows a wrongful death suit to be pursued if the death constitutes a loss to the estate. This means the individual’s estate would have grown if the individual had lived, which may be true in most situations. However, this system also dictates that only those affected by the estate have the right to file a claim.

Again, a personal representative files the wrongful death claim in his or her name, but acts on behalf of the estate’s beneficiaries. Upon the successful completion of the suit, any money awarded would either go into a specially designated trust or would be dispersed to the beneficiaries. The disbursement would comply with the conditions of the will along with any other assets included as a part of the estate.

A personal representative is often the same individual designated to be the executor of the will, when a will has been drafted. If there is no will, there will likely be a court hearing to designate a representative to act on behalf of the beneficiaries.

Time May Be Running Out
If a loved one has been killed in an accident or through intentional harm, it’s wise to consult a Los Angeles personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Like any type of personal injury lawsuit, a statute of limitations does apply to wrongful death cases. While they vary from state to state, the statute of limitations on a wrongful death claim may be as short as a year and that countdown begins upon the individual’s death. Though special conditions may lengthen the time you have to file, this still doesn’t leave much time.

If you believe your loved one’s passing was caused through the acts of another, you should consult a wrongful death attorney Los Angeles as soon as possible. An initial consultation will be free of charge and will give you a better understanding of your case. Since time plays an important factor, consulting an experienced lawyer should be a top priority. This will help you determine if your case is worth pursuing and how a wrongful death claim will benefit your family.

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