Can a Sibling File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

My brother got killed in a car wreck.  Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit for him?

You can file a wrongful death lawsuit for your brother under only limited circumstances.  First, if you are named the executor of his will you have the right to file suit.  Second, if the court names you the administrator of your brother’s estate you will have the right to file suit.  Third, if you brother was not married, had no children, and your parents are dead you would be considered "next of kin" and you would have a right to file suit.  

The right to file suit is different from the right to control the litigation. For instance, if your brother was married and his wife is competent, it is very possible that a court would let your sister-in-law control the lawsuit even if you were named executor of your brother’s estate.

The right to file suit is different than the right to receive any money that results from a wrongful death lawsuit.  For example, under Tennessee law, a sibling will receive proceeds from a wrongful death lawsuit only if the decedent was unmarried, had no children and was predeceased by his parents.

All of this can get a little complicated.  An lawyer who has experience with wrongful death claims can guide you through the process.  Under Tennessee law, you should assume that a wrongful death claim must be filed within one year of the date of the injury that later results in death unless and until a lawyer familiar with all of the facts tells you that you have more time.

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