If you’ve recently experienced the loss of a loved one, the last thing you likely want to think about is a messy legal situation. We understand your grief and a need for some peace. However, if you lost a family member in an accident, there may be negligence on the part of another liable party; damages may be owed to the deceased individual’s immediate family members. Read on for more information about filing a wrongful death claim.
What a Wrongful Death Claim Means
A wrongful death means that someone has died at the fault of another individual. Historically, family members could not seek damages after a wrongful death. The perpetrator or negligent party may have still gone to prison, but the family would not receive anything after the loss of their loved one. This meant that the perpetrator may be better off financially than the deceased individual even if they were found guilty in court.
However, thankfully, now it is possible for families to seek damages from the loss of a loved one. A representative of the decedent or the estate of the decedent can sue for civil damages, which include sorrow, grief, and mental health.
Who Can Sue?
In a wrongful death claim, different states have different statutes stipulating what can be recovered in a wrongful death.
Lord Campbell System
Most states have statutes following “Lord Campbell’s Act” from the 1846 British Parliament. This act claimed that the ability to sue was left solely up to one class of relatives to the deceased, including immediate family in most cases. The statutes each designate specific beneficiaries based on relationship to the decedent, such as a widowed spouse or son or daughter.
If there are no living members in that first class of relatives, the benefit to sue in a wrongful death would be passed to the next class. If there are no living relatives of any class at the time of death, no one can bring about a wrongful death case on behalf of the deceased.
Other states stipulate that a decedent’s estate itself can only bring about a wrongful death claim to compensate for the losses it sustained due to the death. This means that a personal representative of the estate—someone the probate court appoints to administer the assets of the deceased—would file the suit under their name alone. However, anything recovered in the suit would be held subject to a special trust, and then distributed to all qualifying beneficiaries.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
If you’ve recently lost a loved one and are thinking about filing a wrongful death claim, you need a legal team on your side that is sensitive to the losses you and your family have endured. The proper wrongful death lawyer can help you obtain the peace of mind you so deserve during your family’s time of grief. If you are located in the area of Chattanooga, don’t wait—contact McMahan Law Firm, today.