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Can an Unmarried Partner Sue for Wrongful Death?

Losing your partner is a devastating tragedy that will have long-lasting consequences for the rest of your life. If you’ve lost your partner due to the negligence or malice of another person or entity, the knowledge that their death could have been prevented will likely only add to your emotional distress. For married partners, the legal right to sue for wrongful death would be readily assured. But if you and your partner were unmarried, you may or may not have a right to sue for wrongful death.

When is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Appropriate?

Examples of situations leading to a wrongful death include, but are not limited to, an accident, between two individuals engaged in an altercation, and at work. In all of these situations, the common factor is that another person was liable for the act that resulted in your loved one’s death. The person or entity’s actions may have been purposeful or their actions may have been neglectful. Even if they are found innocent of criminal charges in the incident that caused your partner’s death, they might still be held accountable in a wrongful death lawsuit.

What is the Purpose of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to provide compensation for the family that the deceased has left behind. This compensation is often intended to make up for the lost income that the individual will no longer be able to provide. In some cases, the deceased may have lingered before passing and left behind extensive medical bills as a result. The lawsuit may also be intended to compensate the family for the grief and emotional loss that resulted due to the deceased’s death.

Can an Unmarried Partner Sue for Wrongful Death?

The terms for wrongful death lawsuits do vary depending upon the state and your unique relationship with the deceased. However, typically only immediate family members and next of kin are allowed to file claims in cases of wrongful death. If you are not in the first class of beneficiaries, you might not be able to file a wrongful death claim.

What Exceptions Exist for Unmarried Partners?

In some cases, same-sex partners who have legally recognized domestic partnerships may be able to file a wrongful death claim. Some jurisdictions will also recognize relationships that can claim to be “common law” marriages. If the accident that claimed your partner’s life also claimed an unborn child, you might also be entitled to a wrongful death as that child’s other parent. Additionally, if you can prove that you are suffering an undue financial hardship because of your partner’s death, you may be able to file a lawsuit.

Situations involving unmarried partners and wrongful death lawsuits have the potential to be legally complex. While nothing can replace your partner or bring them back after such a devastating loss, an experienced Milwaukee personal injury lawyer may be able to help you navigate legal responses to your grief.

Hickey & Turim, S.C.Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hickey & Turim, S.C. for their insight into wrongful death and personal injury practice.

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