FAQ: Who is eligible to sue for wrongful death?

There are a number of people who may step forward after the tragic death of a loved one. In general, family members related to the deceased and the estate are most eligible to sue for wrongful death in most situations, but the laws vary from state to state. Learn more about the wrongful death laws in Missouri and Illinois below.


When a person dies through the negligence or misconduct of another, surviving family members or the estate may sue for wrongful death. Beyond just the civil proceedings, the state prosecutor may also decide to bring criminal charges against the responsible party and hold a criminal trial.

Whichever form of justice is served, the negligent parties need to be held accountable by the people who stand to lose the most from the death. While these innocent individuals are simply trying to do their best to move forward with life after a tragic loss, it can be hard to do so when that person’s death leaves them in financially dire straits.

As a personal injury in both Missouri and Illinois, we know the ins and outs of wrongful death claims for both states. Let’s start with Missouri:

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Missouri?

Missouri law is somewhat unique in that only certain people are allowed to file a claim for wrongful death. Please note that only one wrongful death action may be brought for the death of any one person.

Section 537.080 of the Missouri Revised Statutes sets forth three classes of people who can step forward to receive justice:

Class 1 – First Preference

Parents, spouse, children, and the surviving lineal descendants such as grandchildren and great grandchildren, natural or adopted, legitimate or illegitimate, or by the father or mother of the deceased, natural or adoptive. Wrongful death law gives preference to this category of people first.

Class 2 – Second Preference

If there is no one who qualifies in class 1 entitled to bring the action, then the brother or sister of the deceased or their descendants (nieces and nephews of the deceased) may bring a claim. If there are still no persons who qualify, a personal representative of the decedent’s estate may assert the claim.

Class 3 – Third Preference

If there is no one who qualifies in class 1 or 2 entitled to bring the action, then the court may appoint a plaintiff ad litem to set forth a claim. The plaintiff ad litem is someone the court deems suitable and competent to prosecute such action and whose appointment is requested on behalf of people entitled to share in the proceeds of an action.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Illinois?

Under Illinois law, surviving spouses and children have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, if there are no surviving members of the decedent’s immediate family, the rights can extend to other “next of kin” blood relatives, such as parents and siblings, who would have taken the decedent’s property by intestacy.

Furthermore, if the deceased individual did not have an appointed personal representative to handle their estate plan, the Illinois court system can appoint a personal representative.


Wrongful Death Lawyer in St. Louis | The Hayden Law Firm

If you are eligible to sue for wrongful death in either Missouri or Illinois and are thinking about pursuing justice for someone who has died because of another person’s or entity’s negligence, it is best to file as soon as possible. Not only because there are statute of limitations enacted in both states but because you will want to ensure that your rights are protected from the start following an accident.

We know this can be challenging to do when grieving the sudden loss of a spouse, child, parent, or close family member. Just know that we are ready to talk when you are.

If you had a loved one tragically pass away because of another person’s negligence, contact us or call our wrongful death lawyer in St. Louis, MO, at The Hayden Law Firm at (314) 480-3100 for a free, no-risk consultation.


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