Who Can File for Wrongful Death in Montana?

Who Can File for Wrongful Death in Montana?

Montana Code § 27-1-513 establishes that when injuries to and the death of a person are caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another party, the personal representative for the deceased person’s (decedent's) estate can maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death. When a person is employed by another party who is responsible for causing such a person's conduct, a claim can also be filed against the other responsible person.

In Montana, eligibility to file wrongful death claims will generally be limited to specific family members. Individuals typically eligible to file wrongful death claims include:

  • Spouses — A surviving spouse of a decedent has the right to file a wrongful death claim.
  • Minor Children — If decedents have minor children (under 18 years of age), they can be eligible to file wrongful death claims.
  • Parents of Minors — If a decedent is a minor child, their parents could have the right to file a wrongful death claim.

It is important to note that the eligibility of parents of an adult deceased child is more limited and depends on the existence of an unusually close and independent relationship. If the parents can demonstrate that they had a particularly close relationship with the adult child - such as when the adult child is the parents' caretaker - they may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

What Causes Wrongful Death Claims?

Wrongful death claims are most commonly the result of ordinary accidents such as car crashes but can also be filed in cases involving intentional acts of violence or medical malpractice. It is important for people to understand that wrongful death actions are civil claims, which will operate very differently from any criminal charges filed against a negligent party in these cases.

A deceased person’s legal representative is the party responsible for pursuing a claim on behalf of any beneficiaries entitled to seek damages for the loss of a loved one. In most cases, the legal representative is a family member of the deceased, such as a spouse, child, parent, or sibling. 

Such individuals are often designated as the personal representative or executor of the estate through a will or estate planning documents. However, if a decedent did not name a specific individual, a court can appoint someone to serve as the legal representative.

In certain situations, people may choose to designate trusted friends or colleagues as legal representatives of their estate through wills or other estate planning documents. As long as a designation is valid under the applicable laws, the chosen individual can act as the legal representative and pursue the wrongful death claim on behalf of the beneficiaries.

Call Us Today to Speak to a Montana Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you have lost a loved one in an accident or because of someone else’s intentional act, it's crucial to consult with a Billings wrongful death attorney. They will be able to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information based on the circumstances of the wrongful death and the applicable laws in Montana. To schedule a free case evaluation, call our office today.