Before filing a wrongful death lawsuit, it is important for family members to determine who is entitled to file the suit. Who is entitled to what depends largely on whether or not the death occurred in a state that recognizes the loss-to-estate or Lord Campbell system. To help you understand both systems and what damages you can recover, here is what you need to know.
What Is the Loss-to-Estate System?
Under the loss-to-estate system, only the deceased's estate can receive compensation for a wrongful death. Instead of an individual family member filing suit, the executor would file on behalf of the estate. Any funds that are received from the lawsuit would then be distributed according to the deceased's will or state law if there is no will in place. Depending on your state's laws, the money could be placed in a trust and then distributed.
If there is no executor for the estate, the probate court would select a someone to represent the estate. The personal representative is usually a family member.
What Is the Lord Campbell System?
The Lord Campbell System is based on the relationship that family members have to the deceased. According to the system, there is a hierarchy of family members that must be respected to determine who can file a lawsuit.
For instance, immediate family members are often chosen over others in this system. Immediate family members, such as the parents or children, would be eligible to file on behalf of the deceased. Distant family members, such as grandparents, would be next.
If the deceased has financial dependents who are not immediate or distant family members, they would likely be next in line to file a lawsuit if there are no other eligible relatives.
What Damages Are Compensated?
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff has the right to receive compensation for a number of damages if he or she is able to prove the defendant is responsible for the death of the deceased. Damages include any pain and suffering the deceased experienced prior to death and funeral and burial costs.
Other damages include medical bills, loss of companionship, and loss of expected income from the deceased.
Consult with an attorney, like the ones at Bangel, Bangel, & Bangel, to determine who in your family has the right to file a lawsuit for a wrongful death and to learn what damages you are entitled to.The attorney can also assist in filing the documents necessary to start your lawsuit.