Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions

by Kyle Kosieracki on May 28, 2018

In situations where the reckless behavior of another brings about the death of your loved one, the level of suffering and pain you experience is beyond measure. It’s important to know that during these trying times, you have the ability to take action and fight for your justice.

Who can bring a wrongful death claim?

Generally, claims arising out of an injury to a person die with the person. The Minnesota wrongful death statute, Minn. Stat. § 573.02, makes an exception to that rule. Under the Wrongful Death Statute, only a court-appointed trustee can bring a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party.

Who can ask the court to appoint a wrongful death trustee?

It depends on which blood-relatives survive the decedent (the person who died). The rules are pretty complicated, but the list below identifies who could ask the court to name a wrongful death trustee in the most common scenarios.

The decedent is married, without children, at the time of death: The decedent’s spouse or either of decedent’s parents can ask for a trustee to be appointed.

The decedent is married, with children, at the time of death:  The decedent’s spouse or any of decedent’s children can ask for a trustee to be appointed.

The decedent is not married, but has children, at the time of death:  One of decedent’s children can ask for a trustee to be appointed.

The decedent is not married, and has no children, at the time of death: Either of the decedent’s parents can ask for a trustee to be appointed.

The decedent is not married, has no children, and parents have passed at the time of death:  One of decedent’s siblings can ask for a trustee to be appointed.

Of course, scenarios other than those described above also occur.  Because the law on who can seek appointment of a trustee is complex and only a properly appointed trustee can bring a wrongful death claim, it is important to speak with an attorney about your specific case.

Who can be named wrongful death trustee?

Although the law is strict regarding who can ask for a trustee to be named, almost any competent adult could be named the trustee.  Usually, the trustee is one of the decedent’s family members, but that does not have to be the case. Often, the person asking the court to appoint a trustee requests that he or she be appointed trustee.  Courts regularly grant such requests.

How do the courts value the loss of a decedent’s life?

They don’t. A wrongful death action seeks to recover the losses suffered by the decedent’s family because of the death, not recovery for the life lost itself. A wrongful death action is not about valuing the loss of life; it’s about determining the value of the services, financial benefits, guidance, and care the decedent provided to those he or she left behind. The law calls these losses “pecuniary losses.”

Some examples of pecuniary losses that might be suffered by a next-of-kin include:

  • Loss of income where the decedent provided financially for a next-of-kin;
  • Loss of services where the decedent provided services for a next-of-kin; and
  • Loss of aid, comfort, and society where the decedent provided assistance, comfort, and companionship to a next-of-kin.

Who can benefit from the proceeds of a wrongful death action?

Only a court-appointed trustee can bring a wrongful death action, but any of the decedent’s “next-of-kin” can claim a portion of the proceeds, so long as he or she suffered a pecuniary loss because of the death.  The decedent’s “next-of-kin” is made up of a broader category of individuals than those who qualify to ask for the appointment of a wrongful-death trustee.

The decedent’s spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, grandparents, and cousins are all next-of-kin who can seek recovery from the proceeds of a wrongful death action.

After a settlement or judgment, how are the wrongful-death proceeds allocated among the next-of-kin?

Often, the next-of-kin agree how the money should be apportioned. When that happens, the wrongful-death trustee files a petition with the court, asking the court to distribute the wrongful-death proceeds pursuant to that agreement. Usually, the court will honor the family’s wishes.

If the next-of-kin cannot agree on how the proceeds should be allocated, the court will determine the distribution. Each of the next-of-kin seeking a portion of the proceeds must present evidence of his or her pecuniary loss caused by the death. The court will consider the evidence and make a distribution in accordance with the law.

Additional Resources

Below you will find a list of additional Minnesota Wrongful Death articles that may prove helpful:

How Can We Help?

At Tarshish Cody, PLC law firm, we understand how emotionally devastating and tiring dealing with a wrongful death suit can be on a family. Not only do you need a compassionate lawyer, but you need one who will fight for the compensation you deserve from those who are responsible. Our wrongful death attorneys have handled many cases and have helped our clients recover the compensation they deserved.

We welcome your call today at 952-361-5556 (or fill out the free Case Evaluation Form) to help you through the legal issues of your wrongful death case. We know we can’t bring back your loved one, but we can fight for your justice so you can get some closure.

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