Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

(714) 898-4444

The claimants who can sue for wrongful death follow in this specific order: the victim's spouse is first; the victim's children are second; the victim's parents, siblings, and other family members are third.

For instance, if a husband was killed by someone else's negligence, then, his spouse would have the first right to file the wrongful death claim. If the spouse cannot deal with pursuing the claim while grieving, then, an offspring has the option to file next and so on.


In order to receive compensation for someone or a company's negligence, those who can use for wrongful death must prove the following:

  • Duty of Care — It must be proved that the defendant had a ‘duty of care' over the deceased, meaning that the offender violated standard rules or regulations because of his or her own negligence or ill will. For instance, the duty of care when driving a car is following safe traffic laws, issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • Failure to Uphold Duty of Care — Once duty of care has been established on behalf of the victim, the Plaintiff will then have to prove that the offender was negligent or simply ignored his or her responsibilities. For instance, speeding, drunk driving, texting and driving, reckless driving, and so on are examples of someone breaching his or her duty of care or responsibilities that he or she has to the road and others' safety.
  • Causation — Lastly, the Plaintiff must go beyond demonstrating that the defendant broke the law and put others at danger and reveal the damage that the defendant has caused to the victim or victims. For instance, any form of dangerous/negligent driving may lead to car accidents and more, which may result in terrible injuries and, more common than not, a passing away of a love one.


As mentioned before, reckless driving is a common for of wrongful death, if not the most common. The others that certainly apply are the wrongful deaths that come from faulty building constructions or roadways, inadequate or no warning signs for hazards, dangerous manufactured products or parts, and even the bartender or bar owner who gave someone impaired more alcohol.

While government agencies and government employees may be responsible for the losses of those around them, many of those affiliated with the government have immunity to such cases. This immunity has still been debated in the Supreme Court.

While it may be easy to focus on the physical damages of the case such as injury and wrongful, there are many more implicit damages that follow suit. The compensation from a wrongful death case is not only for the burial fees of the deceased or pre-death medical-care but is also mainly for the financial turmoil that comes from the deceased's absence, especially, if the person lost worked and had to provide for his or her family.

Back to the car example, if a victim was killed by a negligent driver, the victim's family has right to compensation in the forms of the victim's loss of current and future earnings and bereavement fees, money that will try to make victim's death less hard on his or her family who may be too distraught to immediately carry-on to normal life. Bereavement compensation is meant to aid ‘pain and suffering', mental confusion, and loss of companionship or consortium.


Even if those affected by the death of the victim may feel that going after an offender for a wrongful death settlement may seem unnecessary, the action is less about the extrinsic awards and more about making a symbolic contribution to the end of wrongful death on the victims' behalf. While the end goal may not be realistic, an active contribution makes a huge effect in the saving of future lives.

Sometimes too, first-time wrongful-death offenders, if not prosecuted, may keep their ways and continue to put others at risk. For instance, a drunk driver who is found innocent of his crime for one odd reason or another may continue to drive recklessly and put others in danger. Your case's success could prevent another victim's death and the anguish that a victim's family and loved ones feel, which you may also share.

In terms of the time limit, the most amount of time that one can wait before filing is two years after the fatal occurrence. Even though this is the general rule, every state has its own ‘statute of limitations'. If you would like to find out if you can sue, call (800) 838-6644 today to obtain a free confidential consultation from one of our experienced attorneys.



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Timothy J. Ryan & Associates

Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has earned a national reputation for aggressive client advocacy and real results for grieving families. If you have questions about your loved one's death, you can obtain a free consultation from attorney Timothy J. Ryan. Call (714) 898-4444 to get help today.