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Who Has the Right to Bring a Wisconsin Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The court will reject your wrongful death claim unless you have standing to sue

You may not be the only one grieving your loved one’s death, but are you the one who has the legal right (known as standing) to bring a wrongful death lawsuit?

The Answer Is Found in the Wisconsin Statutes

Wisconsin Statute Section 895.04 determines who can be the plaintiff in a wrongful death case. According to the law, the plaintiff may be:

  • The personal representative of the victim’s estate; or
  • Someone who has the legal right to recover damages in the wrongful death case.

There are specific rules about who can recover damages and, if the case is not brought by the personal representative of the estate, then it must be brought by the first person who is entitled to damages by law. In other words, the following list must be followed in the order it is presented in the statute:

  • The surviving spouse and minor children under the age of 18 who depended on the deceased for financial support.
  • The spouse of the deceased if no minor children are involved.
  • If there is no spouse, the “lineal heirs” are next in line. Wisconsin law provides an explanation in the intestate statute found in Wisconsin Statutes Section 852.01. Generally, after the spouse, comes the children, and then the parents, then the siblings or if the sibling has passed away the sibling’s children, and then grandparents or their children if the grandparents have passed away.

If the person bringing the case dies, then the next person in line may continue with the lawsuit.

What If You Aren’t the One Who Can Bring a Case?

If you do not have the legal relationship with the person who died that provides you with the right to bring a lawsuit, then you do not have the right to sue. Still, as the significant other, grandparent, cousin, or friend you may believe that a wrongful death case should be brought. If this applies to you, then you should have an honest conversation with the person(s) who can bring a lawsuit and provide them with useful information, such as articles and videos on this website, to help them make an informed decision.

To learn more or to get started protecting your rights, please contact us directly via this website or by phone. Even if you have standing to sue, your time to file a claim is limited. Accordingly, it is important to understand how a Wisconsin wrongful death case works and to get the appropriate steps to protect your rights.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham

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