Understanding The Personal Injury Process

How Do You Establish Legal Standing In A Wrongful Death Case?

If you meet with a wrongful death attorney about a case, one of the first issues they'll want to address is your relationship with the deceased person. This is because the law requires claimants and plaintiffs to have standing. Take a look at what standing is and how you would go about establishing it.


The law dictates that only certain people can file cases. When it comes to wrongful death law, the people with the strongest standing are those with direct family relationships to the deceased party. For example, a spouse always has standing.


Standing also establishes an order of who can file because the law only allows one claimant or plaintiff. If a spouse files a claim, for example, no one else can.

The order of priority is based on how closely related the filer is to the decedent. Spouses come first. Surviving dependent children are the second group. Parents of deceased dependent children have a similar legal right.

Where things get more complex is when there isn't an immediate relative or spouse to file the case. If an adult died unmarried and without children, the potential petitioners in a case might include a sibling, parent, or cousin. The court may have to resolve conflicts if two parties with similar standing try to file.

In a case involving a dead child of divorced parents, the parent with primary physical custody should be the petitioner. Similarly, in a case involving the death of an adult dependent, the person with guardianship would be able to file if no one else with better standing was available.

Generally, courts will reject cases from almost anyone else. Business partners, for example, have no standing.

A court may consider a claim based on a loco parentis relationship where a non-relative served as a de facto parent to a child. However, the court will subject the case to extensive scrutiny.

Demonstrating Standing

Insurers, defendants, and courts have the right to demand evidence to support a claim of standing. A spouse, for example, would usually produce a copy of their marriage certificate.

The important thing is to make sure you have as much documentation as possible. Make copies of the supporting documents and provide the copies to your wrongful death attorney. They can then add the documents to the demand package or lawsuit to explain why you have the legal right to compensation. Keep the original documents in a safe place in case you need to produce them at a later time.