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The unexpected loss of a loved one can be devastating. While compensation can’t bring back the deceased, Minnesota’s law allows the deceased’s family members to take legal action against the liable party. You can initiate a  wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party to hold them accountable for their actions, including compensation for any losses.

Wrongful death claims in St. Paul, Minnesota, are often complex, and navigating the claims process yourself isn’t advisable. Hire a Minnesota wrongful death attorney to help you establish liability and obtain your deserved compensation.

What is a Wrongful Death in Minnesota?

A wrongful death suit is a claim against a person or corporation responsible for another individual dying. The petition is a civil action (a lawsuit in a court of law) by a plaintiff or a trustee of the decedent’s estate. The person who has suffered a loss due to the defendant’s actions must, with the assistance of an attorney, prove to the court that the defendant was negligent.

Minnesota statute section 573.02 defines wrongful death as
a death caused by the wrongful act or omission of any person or corporation under circumstances where the person would have filed a personal injury lawsuit had they lived.” 

Surviving members of the victim are entitled to recover compensation for the death of a loved one because the deceased can no longer bring their claim to court. Leading causes of wrongful death settlements include: 

– Medical malpractice or mistakes (e.g., failure to promptly diagnose a condition, nursing home neglect or poor treatment, prescription drug reactions)
– Car accidents (e.g., intoxicated or distracted driver, defective vehicle, commercial truck collisions)
– Workplace accidents (e.g., fellow employee’s negligence)
– Drowning accidents (e.g., lack of signage at a swimming pool) 

Types of faulty products that can result in wrongful death may include:

  • Commercial pesticide
  • Flammable public assembly tents
  • Defective seatbelts
  • Flammable sleeping bags
  • Garage door opening systems
  • Chemicals
  • Toys
  • Playground equipment
  • Tobacco products, and so many more

You can also file a wrongful death suit as a reaction to a court decision relating to criminal charges. Many wrongful death incidents will also involve a criminal case in which the courts determine if the person was criminally responsible and how much of a part they played. If, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the person is responsible for your loved one’s death, they will face a criminal sentence, including jail time and fines. However, if there is insufficient proof for a criminal conviction, many families have found justice with a wrongful death suit in the civil court, which has less extreme proof requirements.

Bearded son looking at upset senior father in glasses. If you need to file a wrongful death lawsuit, Swor & Gatto can help.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in St. Paul, Minnesota?

Minnesota’s wrongful death claims law is quite different from other jurisdictions. While other states allow direct and indirect family members of the deceased or the personal representative of the decedent’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit, Minnesota law only allows immediate relatives or a “trustee” appointed by the court to file the lawsuit.

Here’s who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in St. Paul, Minnesota:

  • Spouse, life partner, or domestic partner
  • Children and other financial dependents 
  • Grandparents (particularly when they are raising the decedent’s children)
  • Siblings
  • Parents (including on behalf of an infant who died after birth)
  • An unmarried child’s parents
  • A married decedent’s spouse and children

If you’re not one of the few people permitted to file, you might be able to contact qualifying parties to push the lawsuit forward anyway or become their legal representative. Proceeds go exclusively to those who can legally file, though they can spread the money to other relatives and close friends if they choose.

What’s the Minnesota Wrongful Death Statute of Limitation?

Minnesota has a statute of limitations that states the timeframe eligible parties must file their claim within three years of the person’s death. Failure to file the claim within this timeframe may render the claim time-barred. Beyond that, your case won’t be accepted in court, and you forfeit any potential compensation.

It’s best to start your suit immediately while the evidence is fresh, but this isn’t your only option. Many suits are filed well after the event because loved ones need time to mourn. If you’ve recently realized that your loved one’s death qualifies for a wrongful death suit and three years have not yet passed, there’s still time. Determine who can file the wrongful death suit and contact a lawyer before the Minnesota wrongful death statute of limitations passes.

Minnesota Wrongful Death Damages

Following a successful claim, damages will be awarded to the deceased person’s survivors or estate to compensate them for the injuries suffered and any other expenses incurred in connection with the death.

This usually includes an itemized list of payments to make up for what’s been lost, including (but not limited to):

  • Loss of the deceased’s comfort and companionship
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Medical bills
  • Loss of income and any other benefits the deceased would have provided their family

Let’s dive deeper into these damages: 

Emotional Damages
The heaviest pain of a passed loved one is the “Loss of Society” or “loss of companionship and comfort.” When a child loses a parent, they’ll miss years of guidance and care. Parents who lose their children also miss years of that child’s comforting presence. The emotional wounds can be even more profound if the victim is very young.

There is also “loss of consortium,” which refers explicitly to the loss of a romantic partner. Building a life with a partner only to have them leave too soon can have a devastating emotional impact.

Monetary Damages
There is also the matter of the deceased person’s financial contributions. They may have been the household’s primary breadwinner; in the event of their death, the rest of the family has to fend for themselves. Workplace deaths are on the rise, and most of them were not the fault of the deceased. A wrongful death settlement will provide the family with financial support.

The family may also be subject to a loss of benefits. Children under 26 often benefit from their parent’s medical insurance. If a parent dies, that child loses that health insurance.

Aftercare Damages
Grieving families often need compensation to take care of the deceased. If the person was gravely ill, they may leave behind high medical bills. Sometimes, they receive inadequate care from doctors or a caregiver. If that’s the case, your bills may be covered.

Funeral arrangements can also be covered in a wrongful death settlement. Even the most cost-effective funeral method (cremation) costs an average of $6,000. Wrongful death claim funds will help you give your loved one a proper ceremony.

Do I Need a Wrongful Death Attorney?

If you file in Minnesota alleging that your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence, you’ll need to establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased and that they breached this duty.

Establishing this is challenging, especially if you don’t know Minnesota’s laws governing wrongful death claims. It’s imperative to have a qualified wrongful death attorney from the onset of the claim process.

Your attorney will help:

  • Gather relevant evidence
  • Negotiate a fair settlement
  • Prepare your claim for trial if you choose to proceed with a lawsuit
  • Establish the liable party 
  • Safeguard your interests 
  • Work with the insurance company on your behalf 

TO WATCH: What damages can be recovered in a wrongful death action?

What is the Burden of Proof for Wrongful Death?

Negligence law, including wrongful death lawsuits, can be confusing and complicated. Your attorney proves the defendant did not use reasonable care to avoid injuring the decedent. If they do so, the defendant is liable. After the evidence presentation, a judge or jury decides what an ordinary or reasonable person would have done in a similar situation. An example of this type of departure from the norm is running a red light or a stop sign.

Common Compensations in a Wrongful Death Case

Determining damages in a wrongful death suit is complex. Courts want to know the factors in determining the amount of property, income, savings, and more of the decedent. These facts can include a person’s:

  • Past wages
  • Potential for future earnings
  • Previous life expectancy to determine how many years of income the decedent lost
  • Non-monetary contributions to the household (i.e., caregiving, housekeeping, and more)
  • Compensation for accident-related medical bills
  • Funeral costs
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of future income
  • Loss of companionship
  • Punitive damages for the defendant to deter similar future conduct and to punish them for intentional acts

The court determines the proportionate pecuniary (monetary) loss suffered by those who survived the passing of their family member. It then orders distribution equally. The first deductions from the decedent’s estate typically include funeral expenses and any demand for the decedent’s support allowed by the court.

Determining the “Value of Life” 

The court must consider different factors when estimating the amount of money to award for wrongful death, including the “value of life” of the deceased person. This task is difficult because the lives of all humans are valuable, regardless of their income or social status.  Answers to these questions help the court determine compensation: 

  • What would have been their projected lifespan if the individual had not passed away before their time? At the time of their passing, what was this individual’s age and state of health?
  • Their craftsmanship and the superiority of their services are unparalleled
  • Their abilities, gifts, and routines
  • Income they possessed at the time of their passing
  • Monetary gain they could have acquired if they had been alive.
  • Financial strain of sustaining their family’s livelihood
  • Monetary burden of healthcare and funeral costs 
  • Repercussions of lost future earnings, pension plans, and retirement benefits.
  • Tragedy of a departed one’s absence from the lives of their loved ones 

Wrongful Death: Auto Accidents 

Car accident fatalities are increasingly becoming common, especially in Minnesota. In wrongful auto accidents, the motorist or the driver is often responsible. However, in other cases, the vehicle manufacturer or even the authorities accountable for maintaining safe roads may be responsible for the wrongful death.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death Auto Accidents in St. Paul, Minnesota

Multiple factors are involved in an accident that leads to wrongful death. However, the negligent conduct of the liable party is what often leads to wrongful death. Common causes of wrongful death auto accidents include:

– Driving while texting or using a cellular phone
– Driving while intoxicated or under the influence
– Blatantly ignoring road safety laws
– Inadequately trained driver
– Faulty car
– Invisible sign language on the road

In automobile accidents, there are multiple parties involved who can be held liable either individually or collectively:

– Commercial Drivers
– Individual drivers
– Employers
– Ride-sharing drivers

Wrongful Death: Bicycle or Pedestrian Accidents 

Bicycle and pedestrian accidents are also increasingly common in Minnesota. The primary cause of these types of accidents? Careless driving, driving under the influence, or even negligence. Injuries sustained due to a bicycle and pedestrian accident can be devastating. Severe injuries, in some cases, can lead to wrongful death.

Victims who sustain injuries due to these accidents are entitled to compensation. The victim’s family members can seek compensation by filing a claim.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents in St. Paul, Minnesota

Pedestrians and bicyclists are often the most vulnerable and risk harm or injury once drivers violate traffic rules. Leading bicycle accident causes include:

Distracted driving: This often occurs when the driver or any other party is distracted while driving. For example, a driver using a mobile phone while driving is bound to lose concentration on the road. As such, they may hit a pedestrian or a biker, leading to severe injuries.

Driving under the influence of drugs: Alcohol and other intoxicating substances may impair the ability of the driver to concentrate on the road. They may cause a fatal accident for the most vulnerable parties, the bikers and pedestrians.

Ready for Help?

When pursuing a wrongful death claim in Minnesota, consult a qualified attorney before taking any other step.

Grief is never easy, but our firm is here to help. Take the time you need to heal while Swor & Gatto works toward your due compensation. Our team will explain your rights and navigate the court system for you. That is precisely why we are here.

Contact us online for a free case evaluation. You can also call us at 651-454-3600 or visit our office at
1177 W 77th Street
St. Paul, MN 55102