Who Can Sue In a Wrongful Death Case?

Losing a loved one is a tragic experience, but it's even more tragic if their death was caused by the actions or negligence of another person. If this has happened to you or someone you know recently, you're probably wanting to talk to a skilled wrongful death law firm about potentially filing a lawsuit against the party at fault for your family member's death.

However, not anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit--there are rules and procedures governing wrongful death cases that have to be followed. They vary from state to state and are strictly enforced in order to prevent fraud--states don't want someone claiming to be a long-lost relative filing a suit and depriving legitimate heirs the chance to recover damages. The wrongful death attorneys at Halvorsen Klote Law are here to answer all your questions regarding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Who Can Sue For Wrongful Death In Missouri

Missouri's laws regarding who can sue in a wrongful death case are some of the most specific in the United States. Officially they are governed by Missouri RS 537.080, and they divide eligible plaintiffs into three groups.

  • Class 1 is composed of the deceased's spouse, children, grandchildren, and parents. Additionally, adoptive parents and adopted children are placed on the same legal footing as genetic parents/children.
  • Class 2 consists of the brothers or sisters of the person who died, as well as their children--in other words, the deceased's nieces or nephews.
  • Class 3 is a special class called a plaintiff ad litem. This is defined as "a person appointed by the court...upon application of some person entitled to share in the proceeds of such action". Usually this is a relative not in Classes 1 or 2, such as an aunt or cousin.

In Missouri, those in Class 1 have first priority when it comes to suing for wrongful death. If no one from that class is either alive to bring the action or wants to do so, then the right to sue passes down to Class 2. Only after those entire two classes have been exhausted can a plaintiff ad litem come forward and file a wrongful death lawsuit. That plaintiff may also be required by a judge to post a bond to ensure they are acting in the best interests of the deceased. In addition, estranged or absent family members can bring wrongful death claims, but the circumstances that led to the loss of contact between them and the deceased can and will be taken into account by juries when considering settlements or judgments.

Who Can Sue For Wrongful Death In Illinois

Illinois' wrongful death statute is governed by 740 IL Compiled Statutes 180/, appropriately known as the Wrongful Death Act. It requires wrongful death cases to be brought by a "personal representative" of the deceased. These are defined as the surviving spouse and "next of kin" of the person who died. "Next of kin" includes children, parents, or siblings, depending on the situation. Illinois also permits multiple family members to join in the same wrongful death lawsuit, with damages split proportionally based on how much a judge or jury feels each party was personally dependant on the deceased. If there is no living "next of kin", three groups of people can sue for wrongful death in Illinois:

  • The person who provided hospital services which were related to the deceased's final injuries or illness
  • The person who performed direct medical or surgical services related to the deceased's final injuries or illness
  • Executors of the estate, or other people who administered the deceased's financial and personal affairs

It should be noted that in this situation, damages are capped. For the first two groups, the maximum amount they can recover is $450, and for the third group the damages should be "the total of the reasonable value" of medical bills, funeral costs, and attorney's fees.

Contact A Top St. Louis Wrongful Death Law Firm Today

If you have any other questions related to who can sue for wrongful death, or any other topics related to wrongful death lawsuits, don't hesitate to contact the experienced wrongful death lawyers at Halvorsen Klote. Call them today at 877-51-HKLAW, or feel free to contact them online.