The loss of a close family member is never easy. No one wants to think about a wrongful death lawsuit while you deal with your grief and life changes – but what if the circumstances suggest you should pursue one?
If another person’s wrongful act or negligence causes a death, Minnesota law provides for claims to recover losses from an economic standpoint as well as damages for loss of support. Additionally, other expenses, such as the cost of medical care and burial, can be recovered.
Claims must be filed on time
There is a time limit for wrongful death claims in our state. The Minnesota statute of limitations requires that they must be filed within three years of the date of death. There are some exceptions (an example would be in the case of an intentional act of murder), but it is of critical importance that the family move ahead with filing the claim within that time period.
There are different types of compensation
The victim’s family is entitled to compensation for actual expenses as well as loss of financial support. In addition to medical bills and funeral costs, the reduction of the family’s income must also be considered. The laws concerning wrongful death claims provide for the impact that the loss of a loved one has on many facets of the family. This can be based on past and potential future income as well as the absence of the comfort, counsel, and protection the deceased provided to the family.
There can be more than one claimant
Generally, the relationship of the survivors to the deceased and their eligibility to file a wrongful death claim can be broken down as follows:
- For a married person, the spouse at the time of death, as well as any children, can typically sue for wrongful death.
- For a married person with no children, the parents are also permitted to file a claim.
- If there are no surviving children or parents, the brothers and sisters of the deceased may file a claim.
- In the case of a child, the parents are permitted to file a claim.
There may be disputes within the group of heirs
In some cases, the surviving family members may use separate attorneys or be unable to reach an agreement among themselves about how the damages are to be divided up. In this case, the court will make a decision as to how the amounts will be distributed.
Generally, all heirs must decide together to proceed with filing a claim, resulting in one case. In Minnesota, any heir who decides not to continue with the case must confirm with the other heirs that they are signing away their rights.
It’s a complicated process
Proceeding with a wrongful death claim can be complicated and confusing. There may be a lack of communication and cooperation among the heirs, and it can be overwhelming to gather the records, paperwork, and other documentation that is necessary to make a strong case. The best course of action is to consult an attorney who specializes in wrongful death lawsuits – and to do so sooner, rather than later. For families who find themselves financially stressed after the loss of a loved one, the timing can be critical.