When You Can Sue a Family Member for Wrongful Death
Some differences among the states exist concerning the circumstances in which family members may be sued for wrongful death actions. In some states, limited parental immunity exists for injuries resulting from a parent providing ordinary care to a child. Even in cases where state law permits one family member to be sued, that person can only be sued if he or she was negligent and responsible for causing a death.
For example, if a woman was killed in a car accident in which her husband was driving, he could only be sued if he was at fault or found to be responsible for causing the accident. A wrongful death lawsuit asserts that the victim died as a result of negligence on the part of the person being sued and that the victim’s survivors are entitled to financial compensation as a result of that negligence.
This type of claim differs from a general negligence lawsuit, which is filed by the person injured for compensation. Originally, a wrongful death claim did not exist based upon the idea that the claim died with the victim. Consequently, there was no way to compensate the victim. Accordingly, the surviving family members were not allowed to claim damages from the individual who caused the victim’s death. However, over the years, wrongful death laws have been passed by the states that provide compensation to those who may have been damaged from the death of the decedent. Today, some form of a wrongful death claim action exists in all the states.
Although the state’s “wrongful death laws” were created independently of each other, they all follow the same basic principles. The elements of each claim include:
The death was caused, in whole or part, by the actions of the defendant
The defendant was negligent or liable for the victim’s death
There is a surviving spouse, children, beneficiaries, or dependents
Monetary damages have resulted from the victim’s death