Who Is Liable If a Family Member Dies?

By Chris Dixon


When someone passes away, their debt doesn’t automatically disappear. The deceased’s debts will likely be consolidated with remaining assets and estates that the victim left behind, but not always. For example, if a surviving family member is a cosigner of a loan or otherwise financially involved with the victim, they are legally obligated to pay back the loan based on its terms. If you are grieving the loss of a family member, and confused about who is liable if a family member dies, an experienced wrongful death lawyer can assess the deceased’s remaining assets and estate to determine the best options for proceeding with the victim’s wrongful death case.

Should I File a Wrongful Death or Survivorship Claim if a Family Member Dies?

If you have reason to suspect that another person’s negligence caused your family member’s wrongful death, you could be eligible to file a wrongful death or survivorship claim to recover damages. Though similar, wrongful death and survivorship claims differ in regards to who can file a suit, the type of damages that are recoverable, and how funds are dispersed. Generally, a wrongful death claim can be submitted by the immediate family members of a victim to recover compensatory damages that have stemmed from the victim’s death, but survivorship claims pertain to losses that the victim experienced in the accident such as:

  • Medical expenses that were caused because of the accident
  • Mental, emotional and physical distress that the victim experienced prior to their death
  • Property damages caused in the accident
  • If the deceased wasn’t immediately killed in the accident, any lost wages that stemmed from the accident

How is Liability Determined if a Family Member Dies?

Liability is often one of the most difficult elements involved with the wrongful death process. Proving that someone is liable when a family member dies requires time, significant evidence, and adequate knowledge of your state’s wrongful death laws. Typically, liability can be determined with proof of death (autopsy reports, death certificate), evidence that displays the other party’s negligence, and proof of surviving family member’s out-of-pocket expenses that stemmed from the accident (loss of income and funeral and burial expenses). Without these elements, it can be impossible to prove who is liable for your family member’s death. However, if these elements are present, an experienced lawyer can use this evidence to create a compelling claim that increases the odds of recovering full compensation from the liable party.

How is a Settlement Determined When a Family Member Dies?

If you have filed a wrongful death or survivorship claim against the liable party after a family member has died, there are many different things that could affect the recoverable damages. For example, if the deceased had a cosigner for a loan or other financial debts linked to a living person, the living party is responsible for the debt. That being said, if the deceased victim has an outstanding loan solely in their name, the debt is paid off with assets left behind or taken out of their estate before damages are awarded to their designated heirs.

Other factors that affect the settlement that you can recover from a liable party when a family member dies are whether the other party is solely at fault in the accident, if there are other factors that might have caused their death (old age, underlying health condition), the strength of the demand letter and claim that was submitted, and whether an experienced lawyer is representing your case.

Consult a Lawyer About Your Wrongful Death Case Today

The wrongful death process can be overwhelming for the surviving family members of victim’s that are grieving the sudden loss of a loved one. An experienced lawyer can relieve some of the stress during this difficult time, quickly determine who is liable for your family member’s death, develop a personalized plan to recover the maximum amount of damages from the responsible party, and ensure that you and your family are taken care of. If you need a lawyer to determine who is liable for your family member’s death, contact the Dixon Injury Firm today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case with our experienced wrongful death lawyers.

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