Who Can File Wrongful Death In Oregon?

Losing somebody that you love and care about is incredibly difficult. If the death of your loved one was caused by the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of another individual or entity, this compounds the tragedy of the situation. Family members in these situations should be able to recover compensation for their losses by filing a civil wrongful death claim against the alleged at-fault party. However, Oregon law is very specific about who is allowed to file these lawsuits. Here, we want to discuss who can file a civil wrongful death claim in Oregon as well as give you some other critical information related to these claims.

Bringing a wrongful death claim in Oregon court

When we turn to Oregon State law (ORS 30.020), we can see that these claims may be filed by “the personal representative of the decedent…”

The law goes on to state that the personal representative can file these actions on behalf of various dependents of the decedent. Specifically, the law states that those who can receive these benefits include the following:

  • A surviving spouse
  • Surviving children
  • Surviving parents
  • Any other individual who would be entitled to inherit the personal property of the decedent, per intestate succession laws, including grandparents, stepchildren, or stepparents

Typically, a personal representative will be named in the will or the estate plan of the deceased. If the deceased did not have a will or estate plan established, the state of Oregon will appoint a personal representative to represent the estate of the deceased for any claims moving forward. In most situations, the person who files a wrongful death claim in Oregon court is a family member of the deceased.

Time limit to file an Oregon wrongful death claim

Each state is responsible for setting a time limit for how long the personal representative has to file a wrongful death claim. The Oregon wrongful death statute of limitations is three years from the date of the deceased person’s final injury. Note that, for the purposes of filing a wrongful death claim, the date of death is not actually the controlling aspect of the situation. Family members must be cognizant of the date the deceased was injured when considering filing these claims.

Sometimes, the date of the final injury is the same as the date of death, but that is not always the case. For example, a person could have been involved in a bad accident but not succumbed to their injuries until weeks or even months later. If the personal representative of the deceased fails to file a lawsuit within the required amount of time, they will lose the ability to recover compensation on behalf of the family members.

Damages in an Oregon wrongful death claim

Damages awarded in a Portland wrongful death claim are intended to compensate surviving family members and the estate for losses related to the death. This can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Any medical or hospital expenses related to the deceased’s final injury
  • Lost wages and benefits of the deceased, including the value of compensation they would have reasonably earned in the future, had they lived
  • Compensation for pain and suffering the deceased endured prior to death
  • The loss of companionship, comfort, guidance, and care suffered by the surviving family members as a result of the death

The total amount of compensation awarded in these cases will vary and depend on the facts related to each particular situation.