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Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Do you need to be married if you want to file a wrongful death claim after your partner dies? That's a serious question that many people may face in their lifetimes. Imagine being a long-time girlfriend, fiancé or partner of an individual who passes away. What right do you have to file a lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawsuits allow those who are surviving spouses and family members to obtain financial compensation for the person's death due to negligence or malicious intent. By law, it's only the immediate family members or next of kin who are allowed to file a claim in court.

That's a problem for many unmarried individuals, but if you are in a domestic partnership, you may have the right to file the claim after all. While a domestic partnership is not the same as a marriage, it does hold weight with the courts. It signifies that the couple has taken serious steps toward being together.

To be a domestic partner, you have to register as such. Until you do so, you will not have the same right to file a wrongful death lawsuit as someone who is married to his or her spouse. You won't be considered to be family members, so you won't be able to file a claim.

If you aren't in a domestic partnership, you may still be able to file a claim if you can prove you were in a valid common-law marriage or if you believed in good faith that you were married to the individual who passed away. If you find yourself confused about your right to make a claim, your attorney can help.

Source: FindLaw, "Do You Need to Be Married to File a Wrongful Death Claim If Your Partner Dies?," George Khoury, accessed July 11, 2017

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