Along with the emotional burdens which accompany a wrongful death comes the complicated legal process following the passing of a loved one. In many wrongful death accidents, the surviving family of the victim decides to pursue legal action against the responsible party to bring justice and closure. However, this legal process can be convoluted and one of the first questions the family usually has is the definition of “heirs,” that is, who can file a lawsuit against the responsible party?
The Wrongful Death Act has a broad definition of “heirs.” The spouse of the deceased is considered an heir along with the decedent’s children. Also, the natural or adoptive parents of the decedent are considered heirs under Utah State law. If the deceased is not survived by a wife, children, or parents, then any blood relative is considered an heir. The law also designates surviving stepchildren as heirs under specific situation. If the stepchildren are under the age of 18 and financially dependent on the deceased at the time of his/her death, then they are considered heirs.
Utah State law also appropriates responsibility to the filer of a wrongful death lawsuit. The heir who brings the action has a fiduciary duty to the other heirs, “even if they are hostile.” Furthermore, the law also states that only one wrongful death action can be brought. The person responsible for the lawsuit has the fiduciary duty to look after the interests of all the heirs.
Like any legal case, wrongful death claims are intrinsically complex. Seeking representation from an attorney can lift the legal burden from your shoulders as you work through the difficult emotions following the death of a loved one. At the Christensen Law Firm, we are dedicated to providing superlative service to our clients, approaching every case with tact and diligence. If you are involved in a wrongful death case, contact us for a free consultation on your legal rights. Together, we will work to ensure you receive the settlement you deserve.
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