What is a Wrongful Death Claim and Who can File It?
As previously discussed, Wrongful death claims allow certain family members to seek financial compensation for the losses they have sustained due to the death of another family member as a result of an accident due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct of another person, such as in a car wreck, trucking accident with an 18 wheeler, offshore accident, or any other incident. Louisiana law places a value on the guidance, love, and support that a loved one provides to others during his or her lifetime. As such, it understands that the untimely death of that loved one can cause his or her family members to suffer losses. The Louisiana wrongful death statute intends to compensate family members for those losses. Wrongful death claims are litigated in “civil” court – not to be confused with “criminal” charges that are litigated in criminal court. If the responsible party committed a crime in the process of killing your loved one, such as in a drunk driving accident, any criminal charges that he or she might face are in addition to the wrongful death claim and are litigated separately.
Who can file a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Although there are multiple people directly affected by the death of a loved one, not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The Louisiana Wrongful Death Statute provides a list of certain individuals who can bring wrongful death claims. However, not everyone falling on the list can bring one at the same time. The list prioritizes classes of individuals having that right, beginning with the lower numbered class and moving to the higher numbered class (top to bottom), as follows:
- Spouse and Children: The surviving spouse and child or children of the deceased, or either the spouse or the child or children.
- Parents: The surviving father and mother of the deceased, or either of them if he left no spouse or child surviving.
- Siblings: The surviving brothers and sisters of the deceased, or any of them, if he left no spouse, child, or parent surviving.
- Grandparents: The surviving grandfathers and grandmothers of the deceased, or any of them, if he left no spouse, child, parent, or sibling surviving.
- Representative of the Decedent’s Estate.
If a member of a lower numbered class is living, then that member can bring a claim, but none of the members of the higher numbered classes can do so. For example, if any spouse and/or child or children of the deceased is living, both or either of those individuals can bring a claim, but no parent, sibling, or grandparent can do so because they fall under a class with less priority than the child and spouse. If there are no surviving family members, and no one has been named to represent or manage the decedent’s estate, there can be no wrongful death claim. It is also worth noting that adopted and illegitimate family members may file a claim, while certain family members may be excluded from filing. You should consult with an attorney to discuss whether you fall under the class of individuals who have the right to bring a wrongful death claim. If you have recently lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing and are a qualifying survivor of the wrongful death victim, you may be eligible to compensation. The Russell Law Firm represents clients in wrongful death cases throughout the State of Louisiana, including the parishes of East Baton Rouge Parish, West Baton Rouge Parish, Plaquemines Parish, Livingston Parish, Ascension Parish, Jefferson Parish, Orleans Parish, St. Charles Parish, Terrebonne Parish, Assumption Parish, Lafayette Parish, Lafourche Parish, Lafayette Parish, St. Landry Parish, Evangeline Parish; and the cities of Baton Rouge, Livingston, Denham Springs, Walker, Gonzales, Donaldsonville, Port Allen, Brusly, Addis, Lafayette, Napoleonville, Kenner, Harvey, Marrero, Estelle, Gretna, Metairie, New Orleans, Terrytown, Westwego, Ville Platte, Eunice, Opelousas, Thibodaux, Houma, Belle Chasse, and Hahnville. Our firm is experienced and highly skilled in handling wrongful death cases. If you have suffered the death of a loved one, contact the Russell Law Firm. We will take a hands on and aggressive approach at compensating you for your losses.
By: Danny Russell, Esq.
Information furnished herein is only general and not a substitute for personalized legal advice. ****The photograph above is not a depiction of any actual event or scene, but merely a dramatization.