By Steven M. Gursten, attorney and President of Michigan Auto Law

A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of civil action that allows people who were financially dependent on a deceased person to seek compensation for their loss. If you have lost someone close to you in a motor vehicle crash because of an individual’s or a company’s negligence, then you may be eligible to receive compensation from this type of lawsuit.

Bringing this lawsuit against the responsible person or company

If a person dies because of another person’s wrongful act, neglect, or fault – such as in a fatal traffic crash – the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may be able to bring this type of lawsuit against the person or company responsible for the deceased’s death.

The “personal representative” can be the deceased person’s spouse, child, parent, or other relatives, but a person can only officially become the estate’s “personal representative” by being appointed by a Probate Court judge.


This type of lawsuit seeks compensation and damages that will be distributed to the dependents of a person who lost his or her life in an accident, such a fatal automobile or truck crash. This type of lawsuit allows individuals who have lost relatives through wrongful acts such as negligence or malpractice to recover compensation from those responsible.

Damages and compensation may include:

  • The deceased’s pain and suffering
  • Medical bills related to the injury that caused the death
  • Funeral expenses (including burial costs, cremation expenses, and other funeral-related costs)
  • Lost wages the deceased would have earned if they had lived until retirement age (this figure is typically calculated by comparing the salary at his or her last job with what he or she would have made over an estimated 40 years of future employment)

Who is eligible to recover damages?

In almost all states, only certain relatives are permitted to recover damages from this type of lawsuit, including those resulting from fatal traffic crashes. The following are the most common surviving relatives who may be entitled to damages:

  • Surviving spouse or domestic partner
  • Surviving children
  • Surviving parents (natural or adoptive)
  • Surviving siblings (natural or adopted)
  • Grandchildren of the deceased person (including step-grandchildren if you had married their parent after your own child’s death)

Seeking damages after the loss of your loved one

If you have lost a loved one in a tragic accident such as a fatal automobile crash because of an individual’s or a company’s negligence, you may be eligible to receive compensation. These types of lawsuits are typically brought by the deceased person’s family members, who can claim damages for their loved one’s pain and suffering as well as their own loss of financial support and loss of their loved one’s companionship.


All states have their own laws that govern these lawsuits – establishing the process, identifying who can sue, and specifying the damages and compensation that can be recovered – so it is important to consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer if your loved one died due to another party’s negligence.

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