The Rhode Island wrongful death statute, R.I.G.L. section 10-7-1, like that of all other states, allows a suit to be brought against a liable party who caused the death of another. The reason such statutes are necessary is that according to old common law, a suit died with the person who had the right to bring the suit. In other words, if the plaintiff was killed in the accident, there was no person to available to bring the lawsuit, and hence no lawsuit.
Today, when someone dies due to the fault of another person or entity (such as a car manufacturer), the survivors may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. This lawsuit seeks compensation for the loss suffered, including but not limited to, loss of wages and earning potential, companionship, and funeral expenses.
Wrongful death claims involve all types of fatal accidents from simple car accidents to complicated medical malpractice or product liability cases. Persons, companies, and governmental agencies can be legally at fault for acting negligently (failing to act as a reasonable person would have acted) or for acting intentionally.
Immediate family members, such as spouses and children, are entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Rhode Island.
It is also VERY important to know that the House of Representatives in Rhode Island voted to approve a bill which amends the wrongful death statute to allow parents to make a claim for loss of parental society and companionship even if the child is over the age of 18 and no longer a minor. (please see my previous post regarding this change.)
The truth is no lawsuit will ever compensate for the loss of a family member and loved one. It is, however, important to understand your rights and contact an attorney who can help the family get their feet back on the ground.