Will You Be Allowed To File A Wrongful Death Suit?

When a parent passes away because of the negligent acts of a person or a business, you may wonder if you can take action against them. In some cases, the adult children of a victim can file a lawsuit, but there is much more to know about this situation. To learn more, read on.

Are You a Beneficiary of the Deceased?

State law varies on who is allowed to file a wrongful death suit but, in most cases, only those who are beneficiaries of the estate may sue. A beneficiary is someone named by the deceased in either a will, a trust, or other documents directing that an account be payable-on-death or transfer-on-death upon the presentation of the death certificate. However, that may not be enough to earn the right to file in all states.

In some states, you not only have to be a beneficiary but there cannot be anyone else with a right to sue ahead of you. For example, in many cases, the grandchildren of the deceased may be on the succession list to inherit if their parents have passed away. When it comes to wrongful death suits, though, the grandchildren, even if they were financially dependent on the grandparent, have no standing to file a wrongful death suit. Only if all the children of the deceased have passed away can any grandchild sue.

Are You a Biological Child?

Another issue with wrongful death suits is that many states exclude those who are not biological children of the deceased. Only if the parent made the relationship legal by adopting the child can they be considered plaintiffs in a wrongful death suit. For instance, if the deceased had a relationship with someone but never officially adopted the offspring of that partner, they likely have no standing to file a wrongful death suit. Moreover, they may not inherit any of the estate unless they are specifically mentioned in the estate documents. Also, marrying someone who already has children does not confer any rights upon them to sue after death unless they have been adopted.

Another issue arises when same-sex parents have a child through surrogacy. Though some states allow same-sex partners to confer legitimacy on the child by placing both names of the parents on the birth certificate, not all states do this. 

If you are suffering from the untimely death of a parent through negligence, you may still have other options even if you cannot file a wrongful death suit. Speak to a personal injury lawyer for more information.