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Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Oct 11, 2023

If a loved one dies or is killed due to another party's negligence or inaction, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit for compensation.


Read on to learn more about wrongful death and who can file a wrongful death suit. You will also learn how The Spence Law Firm's New Mexico and Wyoming attorneys can help you file a wrongful death lawsuit. We offer individualized legal advice tailored to your specific needs.

What Is Considered Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death is a civil action that can be brought when an individual or entity's negligence or misconduct causes someone's death. If the lawsuit is successful, survivors receive compensation for the losses and harm they've suffered due to the deceased person's death, such as funeral and burial expenses, the deceased's lost wages, and loss of guidance and companionship.

Wrongful deaths are often caused by:

  • Defective products
  • Car, motorcycle, or truck accidents
  • Work accidents
  • Medical errors or malpractice
  • Birth injuries

Families can hold governmental agencies, people, and companies responsible for wrongful death. However, Wyoming and New Mexico law shield the government from most civil lawsuits. An experienced Wyoming or New Mexico lawyer can listen to your case and tell you more about your legal options.

What You Need To Prove Wrongful Death

To receive compensation for your loved one's wrongful death, you must be able to prove the following elements of a wrongful death lawsuit.


First, you must show that the defendant (the person you're suing) was negligent at the deceased's time of death. You can show this by producing evidence that the defendant failed to act reasonably and with proper care, resulting in your loved one's death.


Next, you must demonstrate that your loved one actually died. If you don't have solid proof that they died, you can't file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. For example, if your family member disappeared after a car crash and there is no evidence that they died at the accident scene, you will probably be ineligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Negligence Caused Your Loved One's Death

Another person or entity's misconduct or negligence must have caused your family member's death. If your loved one died from an unrelated condition, such as a pre-existing health condition, you won't be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

You and Your Family Suffered Substantial Damages

Finally, you and your family must have suffered substantial damages due to your loved one's death. For instance, your loved one was your family's main breadwinner and their death means you can't pay your rent or mortgage.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

There are strict laws about who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Most states allow the following people to file a wrongful death lawsuit:

Immediate Family Members

An immediate family member, such as a spouse, parent, sibling, or child of the deceased, is usually named the estate or personal representative. Immediate family members are typically the most affected by the deceased's death.

Dependents and Financial Beneficiaries

The deceased's dependent(s) and financial beneficiaries may also be named personal or estate representatives. These can include adult children, minor children, stepchildren, and other dependents.

Estate Representatives and Executors

If the deceased did not have immediate family or dependent beneficiaries, an executor can file the wrongful death lawsuit. An executor is named by the deceased's will and is responsible for managing the deceased's estate, including paying their debts, handling their assets, and distributing property to beneficiaries or heirs. If the deceased did not leave a valid will, state laws will determine the identity of the executor or personal representative. 

In Wyoming and New Mexico, only personal or estate representatives of the deceased can file wrongful death lawsuits.

Extended Family Members and Distant Relatives

Some states allow extended family members and distant relatives to file wrongful death lawsuits. This can include aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Life Partners and Common-Law Spouses

In states that recognize domestic partnerships and common-law marriages, a life partner or common-law spouse may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Talk to a lawyer to see if you meet your state's definition of a life partner or common-law spouse.

Legal Guardians

If the deceased had legal guardians who were responsible for their well-being, these parties may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. For instance, if the deceased had a severe cognitive disability that prevented them from making decisions or handling their affairs, their court-appointed legal guardians can pursue a wrongful death claim on the deceased's behalf.

Seek Justice for Your Loved Ones With a Wrongful Death Attorney

Although it's technically possible to file a wrongful death statute legal action by yourself, we highly recommend working with a wrongful death attorney from The Spence Law Firm. Our trusted wrongful death lawyers can tell you how to file a wrongful death lawsuit, who can bring a wrongful death claim, and how long do you have to file a wrongful death suit. They also have the experience, resources, and knowledge to build a strong case. Specifically, they can:

  • Gather and preserve evidence. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence to prove wrongful death and bolster your claim, including medical bills, funeral expenses, and family pictures to show what kind of relationship you had with your loved one.
  • Negotiate a wrongful death settlement with the opposing side(s). After building your case and submitting your paperwork ahead of relevant deadlines, your lawyer will negotiate with the opposing side(s) to secure maximum financial compensation. 
  • Take your case to trial. If the other side(s) refuses to settle, your lawyer can take your case to court. Trials are usually more time-consuming and expensive, leading to higher payouts. However, you may receive nothing if you lose. Keep these pros and cons in mind before deciding to go to court.

Interested in learning more about how we can help you? Call 844-520-4627 or fill out this online form to book a free consultation with our trial lawyers. You don't have to pay unless we win your case. We have experience with various practice areas, including wrongful death actions, personal injury lawsuits, and wrongful child death claims. When handling your case, we will meet all deadlines, including the statute of limitations to sue executors.

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If you are struggling with a serious injury, or are fighting against seemingly impossible odds against big corporations, insurance companies or the government, call us to speak with our team of trial lawyers who will fight for you. We take no fee unless we earn it by winning your case.