Can Siblings Sue for Wrongful Death?
It goes without saying that nothing can prepare people for the pain that comes from learning they lost a loved one in an accident. Along with immense grief, family members may also find they are left struggling financially due to their loss.
Fortunately, wrongful death compensation can help overcome these hardships. However, not every family member is eligible to sue for wrongful death, which is essential to learn before attempting to file a lawsuit. But first, let’s take a look at how wrongful death lawsuits work.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Generally speaking, wrongful death refers to a death caused by another person or entity’s negligent or wrongful acts. In other words, wrongful death is similar to a personal injury that gets filed on behalf of the victim. Since the victim is unable to pursue damages, their family has to handle the claim and lawsuit.
It’s important to note that people can file wrongful death claims in both criminal and civil courts. However, there are two main differences between the two:
● When it comes to a civil wrongful death claim, liability is conveyed in terms of monetary damages. In a criminal case, the party responsible for the death is punishable with a prison or jail sentence, probation, or other similar penalties.
● The deceased person’s estate can file a civil wrongful death case. In contrast, only the government is able to file a criminal complaint and initiate a criminal case.
Additionally, the damages that one can request after a wrongful death are usually awarded to the victim’s beneficiaries and distributed as part of that person’s estate.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
The parties that can file a wrongful death claim vary from state to state. In Iowa, only the following have the legal right to pursue the case:
● Surviving minor children or the victim's spouse
● Adult children of the deceased
● Parents of a child who has died, regardless of the child’s age
● The administrator of the deceased party’s estate
If the victim doesn’t have a will or a document that names an administrator for their estate, the probate court will have to appoint one before the case can go forward.
Furthermore, in Iowa, people can only file wrongful death claims two years from the date of the victim’s death. And while some courts might make some exceptions, they are few and far between. For more information, learn about the statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit.
What About Siblings?
Unfortunately, siblings are unable to sue for wrongful death unless they have a document that names them as personal representatives of the victim’s estate. Even so, siblings have the option to file a lawsuit against the executor of the will. That way, they can obtain the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit on the deceased's behalf. Yet, that will delay the lawsuit and give the responsible party more time to prepare their defense.
Compensation for Wrongful Death
If the victim’s representatives win the wrongful death lawsuit, they may receive monetary compensation. The responsible party will have to compensate either the estate, family members, or everyone in between. Usually, the compensation can cover the following expenses:
● Medical bills for the victim’s illness or injury
● Lost wages or the value of the deceased's lifetime earnings
● Pre-death pain and suffering
● Property damage
● Funeral and burial expenses
● Punitive damages
● Loss of services and companionship to family
Other than this, it is also possible for insurance to cover wrongful death.
Can a Lawyer Help With a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
All in all, it’s important to remember that wrongful death lawsuits can help families who are struggling due to the death of a loved one. And while not everybody can file a claim, those that can, should not hesitate to seek justice. However, navigating through legal procedures can be overwhelming, especially when there are other things to take care of, such as preparing for the funeral and handling medical bills.
A legal professional understands the laws surrounding these types of cases and can guide the victim’s representatives toward taking the proper course of action. The Des Moines wrongful death lawyers at Tom Fowler Law can take a look at the wrongful death case and answer all the questions one could have.