The law isn’t always respectful of the heart. No matter how long you’ve been with your partner or how committed you are, you are unlikely to ever get the full benefits that a married partner gets in a relationship. After a death, courts treat wives and husbands as direct, blood relatives and don’t have much to offer loving, devoted, unmarried partners. If your intimate partner had been killed due to someone’s negligence, can you file a lawsuit?
In short, no. An unmarried romantic partner cannot directly file a wrongful death suit if they are not the executor of the estate. However, if they are members of the estate, they can advise the executor to sue or challenge the executor in court. Keep reading to explore the matter further.
Defining Estates and the Role of Executors
A person’s property that is left over when they die is known as their “estate.” Estates get divided among the living through the deceased’s will, or the courts decide how to divvy up the assets when there is no will. The people named in a will are a part of the estate, even if they weren’t related to the deceased.
A deceased person’s assets are managed by a representative, knows as an executor. Executors are either named in the will, or they are appointed by the courts. In Florida, executors are the only people who can directly act on behalf of the deceased’s estate, but other people named in the will can influence the actions an executor takes. This means that, no, an unmarried partner cannot directly sue for the death of the one they loved, but they can still benefit from such a lawsuit.
If you believe that a loved one’s death is the result of someone else’s negligence, you may sue for “wrongful death.” Wrongful death is a kind of personal injury case where, instead of suing for the damages of an injury, you’re suing someone for death. It is not a criminal case. A defendant in a wrongful death case will not go to jail if they lose, but they will owe money to the plaintiff’s surviving estate.
Wrongful death suits are filed for the same reasons any other personal injury case would be filed. Someone’s behavior, either through actively choosing to do something dangerous or by passively neglecting to fix a problem, leads to someone else’s injury. Think of a traditional slip and fall case. Anything from a twisted ankle to a broken leg could result in a lawsuit. But if the person who slipped hit their head and died, that would be grounds for a wrongful death suit.
If you are seeking justice for someone’s death, wrongful death can be used instead of a criminal case. The O.J. Simpson saga of the mid-90s is an example of this. In 1995, the country held its breath awaiting the results of the trial against O.J. Simpson for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. The court found Simpson not guilty. However, the family of Nicole Brown Simpson filed a civil suit against O.J. two years later and won millions of dollars in the case.
Who Can File for Wrongful Death?
In Florida, only the personal representative of the estate can file a lawsuit on behalf of the estate. This representative, known as the executor, is either named directly in the will or appointed by the courts. A good representative should be working closely with everyone involved in the estate. People in the estate are not powerless to the executor’s decisions. If they believe that the executor is untrustworthy or isn’t doing their job, they can go after the executor in court.
This means that a romantic partner, even if they weren’t married to the deceased, can work with an executor to bring forth a wrongful death suit. The executor should be working on behalf of the deceased’s wishes, but they should also be working on behalf of the estate itself. Any member of the estate should have their voice heard. If the surviving partner of the deceased believes that a wrongful death suit is called for, they need to be vocal and persistent. If the executor won’t take action, it may be time for that partner to challenge the executor in court.
When the deceased’s estate wins a wrongful death suit, the compensation should be distributed among the members of the estate accordingly. The executor should be dividing the assets based on their interpretation of the will, and the courts will have final approval on these decisions. If anyone within the estate, unmarried partners included, believes they are being unfairly left out of the reward, they can challenge the court’s verdict.
If you believe that a wrongful death suit is necessary for the death of a loved one, schedule a free consultation with us. You can call us at (941) 960-7225 or contact us online. We care about our clients, and we can fight for the justice you deserve.