Filing A Wrongful Death Claim If You're Not Immediate Family

The legal concept of standing is central to being able to file a wrongful death claim. For a wrongful death lawyer, this means often fielding questions about the process from folks who may not be able to pursue cases. If you are not an immediate family relation of the deceased person, here are four things you need to know about the possibility of seeking compensation.

What Counts as an Immediate Family Member?

In terms of legal standing, there are two types of potential plaintiffs who are guaranteed to have sufficient standing to sue for wrongful death. First, a surviving spouse is certain to be able to. Second, a surviving dependent child will if neither of the parents is still alive. Also, surviving dependents can often be parties to claims filed by surviving spouses. Such dependents may be able to claim the loss of parenting.

A Circle Working Outward

Whoever among the surviving relatives has the strongest immediate relationship to the deceased will have the right to pursue a claim. For example, if the decedent passed unmarried and without children, their siblings would be the next ones up for filing claims. There are even rare scenarios where this sort of thing could work its way down to a surviving cousin.

If someone doesn't have a surviving spouse but they do have adult children, then the adult descendants are likely to have the best claim. Another set of rare scenarios would involve grandchildren standing in the absence of other closely related potential plaintiffs.

Less Likely Claimants

A small group of possible claimants includes adult dependents and minors with loco parentis relationships to the deceased. In the case of an adult dependent, the relationship will likely have to include legally recognized guardianship. With loco parentis, an ad hoc relationship usually involving relatives or close friends serving as de facto parents, the claimant will have to document that the relationship was lasting. Likewise, the relationship needs to be a demonstrable replacement of biological parentage.

Asserting a Claim

Any party that doesn't have an immediate family relationship to the deceased should be prepared to face heavy scrutiny from the court. For that matter, even a wrongful death attorney will want to see quite a bit of proof before they take a case.

Siblings, for example, might have to document that a deceased sibling died unmarried and without an offspring, minor or adult. The court will only consider this kind of case once it is clear that no one closer to the deceased can file a claim.

To learn more, contact a wrongful death lawyer.