Understanding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit

While loss is often viewed as a normal part of life, that may do little to assuage the grief of those in Missoula who suffer through the deaths of family members and friends. Your gown grief over the loss of a loved one may be compounded even further if their death was unexpected. If it is later discovered that their loss was due to another’s negligence, then you may be justified in your desires to hold that party financially responsible through a wrongful death lawsuit. Many in your same position have come to us here at Terrazas Henkel PC ready to initiate such action, only to then learn that it is not a privilege afforded to all. 

Montana’s wrongful death statute can be found in Section 27-1-513 of the state’s Annotated Code. It states that only a decedent’s personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. The reason for this requirement is that any award that may come as the result of such an action is typically given to the decedent’s estate. As the personal representative is responsible for the administration of the estate, the job of initiating a wrongful death action would also fall to them. 

That does not mean, however, that you or any other family members or friends of the decedent have no say in initiating such action. An estate’s personal representative holds a duty to its beneficiaries to act in their best interests. While wrongful death lawsuit settlements are awarded to an estate, they are intended to compensate you (and other interested parties) for your losses. Thus, the estate’s personal representative would be representing both yours and the decedent’s interests in such a lawsuit. 

More information on the guidelines regulating wrongful death lawsuits can be found here on our site.