Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Wyoming?
It is a cornerstone of Wyoming law that someone responsible for injuring another person must pay compensation. But what happens when the victim dies? Since he or she is no longer alive to sue, does this mean the defendant gets off free?
Actually, no. Wrongful death lawsuits allow surviving family members to receive compensation from the person who caused the death. These lawsuits are very complicated, and you would benefit from an experienced lawyer’s help. In this article, we will discuss who can file the wrongful death claim in a Wyoming court, along with other related issues.
The Wrongful Death Representative Files the Suit
Under Wyoming’s Code of Civil Procedure, the court must appoint a wrongful death representative, who is the person who files the lawsuit. The law does not lay out a list of people who can serve. For example, it does not say that the spouse of the decedent must serve. Instead, the law tells the court to appoint someone who will represent the best interests of all potential beneficiaries of the lawsuit. To that end, a judge will look at:
- The relationship of the potential representative to the decedent
- The interests of a potential representative to the interests of all other people
- Whether the applicant has taken any steps to protect other potential beneficiaries
- Other factors that are relevant
In many cases, there will be no dispute because only one person will apply. However, once the court names someone, you cannot appeal the decision.
You Must Apply to be the Wrongful Death Representative
Under Wyoming Statute § 1-38-103, a judge can appoint a wrongful death representative at any time after death. The person applying to be named should file a separate action with the court, requesting appointment.
After filing the action, the law requires that you publish a notice for three straight weeks. This notice allows other people who think they might qualify as the wrongful death representative to ask the judge to appoint them instead.
Any Compensation Goes to Beneficiaries
Regardless of who is named as the wrongful death representative, all compensation is for the exclusive benefit of the beneficiaries of the decedent. If these beneficiaries include a spouse, child, or parent, then the compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit cannot be used to pay the debts of the decedent.
Trusted Legal Advice When You Need it Most
After the death of a loved one, the last thing on your mind is probably bringing a lawsuit. Family members need time to grieve and reflect on their loss.
Nevertheless, Wyoming law is crystal clear that you get a limited amount of time to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Any delay could cost you money, so it is best to hire a lawyer right away who can work to protect your rights.
At Platte River Injury Law, our clients appreciate the attention they receive during this difficult time, knowing that someone else is handling the legal details while they grieve. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.