If We Decide to File a Wrongful Death Claim, Does One Sibling Become the Lead Beneficiary in the Lawsuit?
A family that’s considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit may want to know which family members can file the suit and can benefit from any damages awarded. Whether you are a beneficiary for a wrongful death case depends on the individual lawsuit and the state in which it’s filed, which is why you need help from a wrongful death lawyer.
In most states, the family members who can file a wrongful death claim are the spouse, children and parents of the deceased person. All of them would be eligible to receive some portion of any wrongful death damages awarded by a jury, though the spouse — husband or wife — tends to get the most and thus would be considered the main beneficiary.
Siblings Usually Aren’t Allowed to Sue for Wrongful Death
In general, the siblings — or brothers and sisters — of a victim are not allowed to file a claim for wrongful death, and the same goes for the victim’s grandparents. That is true in Texas and in many other states. By not being a claimant in the lawsuit, a sibling could not be a beneficiary, lead or otherwise, in a wrongful death settlement in those states. States where siblings can file wrongful death lawsuits include Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Mississippi.
Exceptions Could Allow Siblings to Receive Payments
However, there are exceptions which could allow siblings to receive payments for wrongful death in some states.
In Texas, if no wrongful death lawsuit is filed by the spouse, parents or children of the decedent within three months, then the executor of the estate could do so. That could be a sibling if the sibling was designated as the estate’s executor in the deceased person’s will and was the only immediate family member of the deceased person remaining to file such a lawsuit.
If no executor of the estate was named in the will, the case enters probate, which means a probate court will name a person as the estate’s executor. Usually that is the closest surviving family member.
Under California wrongful death laws, if there is no surviving spouse or surviving child to file a wrongful death lawsuit, then siblings could file such a claim. But so could parents, stepchildren, grandparents or other more distant relatives. However, each would need to establish financial dependency or a right to property in order to sue.
In California, siblings would have the advantage of being closer to the victim as a family member than, say, grandparents or cousins.
But in most states it is unlikely that a sibling could receive payments from a wrongful death lawsuit.
Another exception might be if a sibling helped provide financial assistance for funeral expenses or other costs brought on by the death. If the lawsuit awarded damages to pay for those costs, a sibling could ask for them.
But even then, the money initially would be given to the claimants in the lawsuit — perhaps a spouse, domestic partner or children — and they would have to choose to repay those costs to a deceased person’s sibling out of their own wrongful death settlement.
Consult a Sibling Wrongful Death Lawyer
Clearly, you should consult a skilled wrongful death lawyer or personal injury attorney to help you explore your legal options and evaluate your chances for filing a successful wrongful death lawsuit or claim, whether or not you are a sibling of the deceased.
Contact us today at the Willis Law Firm for free legal advice about your case and let us help you claim the payments to which you are legally entitled.