Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The loss of a loved one can be traumatic. This can be even more trying when that loss is due to someone else’s careless or reckless actions. Wrongful death lawsuits were created in order for the surviving family members of the deceased to find the justice owed to the decease.

In the wake of a tragic loss, who can file a wrongful death claim?

This question may seem arbitrary or easy to answer but when faced with the tragedy of the loss of a loved one, this question can be difficult to even think about. Instead of thinking about wrongful death claims in an abstract, void of any real context, way, let’s consider an actual case.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit from December Car Accident, FL
Looking at this question against the backdrop of a real situation allows us to consider the meaning of a wrongful death claim in terms of real, concrete examples. This real world example comes to us from an article in the St. Peterburg Times about a wrongful death claim filed after a Weeki Wachee man was killed in an automobile accident.

Troy John Schultz, 41, was killed in a head-on collision in December of 2008. The person at fault, Mitchell D. Vilet, 19, was found fleeing the accident by law enforcement. While the crash investigation is still open, no other details were reported about the accident.

Wrongful Death Action
The law offices of Nadrich & Cohen define a wrongful death action as “a statutory right to sue given to the surviving family members of a deceased family member.” A death must be established as being caused by wrongful, negligent, careless, or reckless action; this will be explored more in later posts.

Had Schultz survived, he would have had the right to sue Vilet for his negligent action in the accident. Since Schultz was killed in this accident, that right passes on to his family members. In this case, it passed on to Linda S. Johnson, a close relative of Schultz.

The question of who can file a wrongful death action can seem cut and dry, like in the example above. Johnson, a family member of Schultz’s family, inherited the right to file a claim. Today, the definition of a family member is not always prototypical. This is where some of the difficulties come in.

Different states have different statutes for wrongful death claims and can define a family in one of a multitude of ways. When it is difficult to define simple terms such as family member, wrongful death attorneys provide much needed clarity among the murky legal language of statutes.


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