The death of a loved one can be difficult to bear, especially if their death was caused by the actions of another. A wrongful death lawsuit may be necessary to hold them responsible, but how do they work?
When can a wrongful death suit be filed?
A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought when either the wrongful act or negligence of one person causes the death of another person. A wrongful act can be intentional, and even criminal in nature. A negligent act is neither intentional nor criminal. Instead, it is when someone does something that was unreasonable under the circumstances.
Who can file suit?
Montana law restricts who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Many states allow multiple family members to do so but Montana does not. Montana Code Section 27-1-513 allows only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to bring the suit. Frequently, this is a family member but not always. The personal representative is appointed by the courts – typically, they appoint surviving spouses or other close relations but this is not always practical. Additionally, if the deceased left a will, they may have nominated a personal representative of their choosing. And although the courts are not bound by the nomination, they can appoint the individual as the personal representative even if they are not a family member.
Who receives damages from a successful suit?
Damages are awarded to the surviving family of the deceased. The surviving spouse and minor children are included in those who receive the award. If the deceased was a child, the child’s parents will collect the damages. Although it is rare, parents of an adult child can receive damages if they were financially dependent on the child. The personal representative is not awarded damages unless they are also one of these family members.