When a loved one dies due to the negligent actions of someone else, it is devastating, and it can be difficult for the family of the decedent to come to terms with their new reality. Therefore, to help during this transitional phase, some beneficiaries choose to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in hopes of mitigating some of their pain and suffering. However, pursuing legal action can be a confusing and overwhelming process, which means that it is wise to understand some of the fundamental aspects of these types of cases.

Who Can File

The first question for most survivors is, “who can file?” Typically, the closest living relatives of the decedent or the heirs to their estate can file a wrongful death suit. For most cases, this ends up being the spouse or the children of the deceased. However, if the decedent was under the age of 18, then it is not unusual for the parents to pursue legal action.

Statute of Limitations

Some states enforce a statute of limitations on wrongful death claims, meaning that you must file a claim within two years of the decedent’s passing. However, there are mitigating circumstances that could waiver this statute. For instance, the cause of the death, age of the plaintiff, as well as whether a government body is a negligent party are all factors that could increase the timeline for filing a claim.

Length of Trial

Wrongful death trials are long and potentially challenging for the surviving family or beneficiaries. The process will require the review of many documents, experts and other evidentiary material. While the process is often settled outside of court, those suits requiring court proceedings and jury trials may take several years to argue and decide.


Fortunately for most plaintiffs, wrongful death attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, meaning that they only get paid if a settlement is reached or a verdict is found in favor of the plaintiffs. While this is good news for many grieving families, it is still necessary to iron out the details. Different lawyers and firms will agree on different fees. For instance, one attorney may only take a quarter of the winnings while others may take more. The final figure is likely a result of the attorney determining their overall risk and upfront costs.

Losing someone to negligence is a life-altering experience. Fortunately, there are laws for survivors to seek justice. If you recently experienced a loss due to the negligence of someone else, contact a wrongful death attorney and discuss the possibility of legal action.