Wrongful death occurs when one person causes the death of another through negligence or wrongful acts. It is a civil matter that results in a payout of money only. Some cases may also have a criminal case occurring, but that is separate from the wrongful death lawsuit.
Not everyone can bring a wrongful death lawsuit, even if they are suffering due to the loss of life. The law reserves the right to bring this type of case to close family only.
The first eligible recipients
The first in line to receive any payments from a lawsuit is the spouse and children of the person who died. If there is a spouse and no children, then the spouse will get all benefits. If there is no spouse, the children will receive all damages, divides among them according to the estate plan of the deceased. If there is no estate plan, the division is typically equal.
The next eligible recipients
In some cases, there may be no spouse or children. If this happens, then the parents of the deceased person will receive any payouts from a wrongful death lawsuit.
If there is no spouse, children or parents, the next of kin will receive any damages paid through the lawsuit. Next of kin usually starts with siblings and then works through the family to find the closest surviving relative or relatives.
The court will order who is to receive the award when finalizing the case. There is the potential to argue rights in probate since the payout from the case will become part of the deceased estate.