After the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage throughout the country, same-sex couples were finally entitled to the same protections under the law once they were married. In many cases, this meant there was no confusion that they were allowed to pursue wrongful death cases should their spouses be killed in an accident. However, because families with same-sex parents can often be complicated, the law still has some gray areas.
Filing for a Spouse
Spouses have the right to file a wrongful death suit on behalf of their deceased husband or wife provided that they were legally married. However, couples whose marriages were not recognized before the 2015 Supreme Court ruling may still have a chance to make their case in court. A wrongful death attorney can help sort through the technicalities of the law and ensure that their clients receive any possible compensation.
Filing for a Parent
Any natural child can file a wrongful death suit on behalf of their parents. However, step-children are not typically included. There are few exceptions to this. If a step-parent made the child an heir, the child may be allowed to sue for wrongful death. Adopted children also have the same legal protections as natural children. If an adoption was not recognized in the state before the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, adopted children of gay parents may still be entitled to legal protection and should speak to an attorney. Adult children, however, may not have this same protection unless they are claimed as heirs in the step-parent's will.
Filing for a Child
Natural and adoptive parents of children are able to file wrongful death suits. Though the same-sex marriage ruling allows homosexual partners to adopt children, step-children may not be included in wrongful death statutes. However, if a step-parent is the legal guardian of a child, they may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Step-parents should contact an attorney to determine their legal rights.
Filing for a Sibling
In some cases, siblings may be able to file wrongful death suits. Half-siblings have the same legal rights as full siblings. The law becomes more complicated when adoption comes into play, however. A wrongful death attorney can help siblings determine whether they are entitled to legal action in the case of wrongful death.
Avoiding Legal Confusion
Though the 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country was a major turning point in law, same-sex couples and their families should not assume that they've been granted immediate rights to sue for wrongful death. In order to avoid problems, wills should be carefully drafted to appoint heirs and guardians. If you have questions about your legal rights, contact a wrongful death attorney to go over your options.