Wrongful Death inscription in doctor hand

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Law Offices of Steven Zwick Jan. 30, 2024

The loss of a loved one is an experience we wouldn't wish on anyone. It's even more painful when their death is a result of someone else's negligence. At the Law Offices of Steven Zwick, we understand this pain and stand ready to support you through this challenging time. We're here to help you navigate the legal maze that comes with filing a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Difference Between a Personal Injury Lawsuit and a Wrongful Death Claim

Personal injury lawsuits are filed by individuals who have been injured due to another's negligence, whereas wrongful death lawsuits are initiated on behalf of a deceased person who died from a personal injury. These lawsuits aim to seek compensation for the losses and damages suffered by the surviving family members as a result of the death. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Navigating the process of filing a wrongful death claim can be complex. That's why it's important to consult with an attorney, like us, at the Law Offices of Steven Zwick, to determine the specific laws and regulations in your state. Typically, the following individuals may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit: 

  • Spouse: The spouse of the deceased person usually has the first right to file a wrongful death claim. 

  • Children: If the deceased person had children, they may also have the right to file. 

  • Immediate Family Members: Parents or siblings may be eligible to file in some cases. 

  • Adult Child: An adult child may have the right to file in certain situations. 

  • Civil Union/Domestic Partnerships: Depending on the state, civil union or domestic partners may have the right to file. 

  • Distant Family Members: Distant family members may be able to file in some instances, although this varies by state. 

  • Executors: If the deceased person had a will, the executor named in the will may have the authority to file. 

Determining who has the legal standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit can be difficult. The Law Offices of Steven Zwick is committed to providing compassionate, thorough legal counsel to help you navigate this devastating time. 

The Lord Campbell System

The Lord Campbell System is a legal framework that allows surviving family members to seek compensation for their loss. Under this system, the damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit aim to compensate the family for the loss of financial support, companionship, and emotional distress caused by the death. 

The Loss-to-Estate System

In some states, the Loss-to-Estate System is used to calculate damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Under this system, the damages awarded are based on the financial losses suffered by the deceased person's estate as a result of their death. These damages may include medical expenses, funeral costs, and lost wages. 

How to File

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit involves several steps, some of which may vary depending on specific state laws. It's always recommended to seek legal advice when considering a lawsuit. Here is a general guide on how to file a wrongful death lawsuit: 

  1. Consult an Attorney: Your first step should be to consult with a professional, experienced wrongful death attorney. They will guide you through the lawsuit process, help you understand your rights, and evaluate the merits of your case.  

  2. Investigate the Death: Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of your beloved one to establish if negligence was involved. 

  3. File a Complaint: If your attorney determines that you have a case, they will prepare a complaint to file in court. The complaint outlines your claims against the defendant and requests for monetary compensation.  

  4. Serve the Defendant: Once the complaint is filed, it must be legally served to the defendant, notifying them of the lawsuit.  

  5. Wait for Defendant’s Response: After being served, the defendant has a specific time limit to respond to the lawsuit.  

  6. Discovery Process: Both parties will engage in the discovery process, which involves the exchange of information and evidence related to the lawsuit. 

  7. Negotiations or Trial: Many wrongful death lawsuits result in settlements during negotiations. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will go to trial where a judge or jury will decide the outcome. 

Remember, this is a general guide and the specific process may vary depending on your state's laws and the details of your case. Always consult with a professional attorney to understand the best course of action for your situation. 

Can Someone Else File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit on Your Behalf?

In situations where you're dealing with the emotional trauma of losing a loved one, the thought of handling a lawsuit can be overwhelming. However, you don't have to go through this process alone.  

If you're unable to file a wrongful death lawsuit due to your emotional state, another family member or an authorized legal representative may be able to file the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased. This individual may vary by jurisdiction, but it usually includes immediate family members, executors of the deceased's estate, or even a named personal representative in some cases.  

Please consult with an experienced attorney to understand your options better and ensure the process is handled correctly and compassionately. At the Law Offices of Steven Zwick, we're here to support you during this challenging time and handle the legal intricacies on your behalf. 

Statute of Limitations

Being aware of the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in your state is important. In California, the statute of limitations is two years. This sets a time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed. Failing to file within this timeframe may result in the loss of your right to seek compensation. Consulting with an attorney will ensure that you meet all the necessary deadlines. 

A wrongful death lawsuit is typically pursued as a civil lawsuit. This means that it is separate from any criminal charges that may be filed against the responsible party. A successful wrongful death lawsuit can result in financial compensation for the surviving family members. 

You Have Rights. Use Them.

Understanding your rights and seeking legal guidance is crucial when filing a wrongful death lawsuit. At the Law Offices of Steven Zwick, we're dedicated to providing compassionate support and expert legal representation. Serving clients throughout Southern California, including Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Fountain Valley, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Orange, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Santa Ana, and beyond, we're committed to fighting for justice on your behalf. 

Our wrongful death attorneys work tirelessly to ensure you receive the representation you deserve. We understand that every case is unique, and we approach each one with the care, diligence, and attention it deserves. Don't navigate this challenging time alone. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation. We're here to stand by your side, every step of the way.