Are you a Michigan wrongful death claimant? MCL 600.2922 governs who is entitled to file a claim for wrongful death proceeds in Michigan:
- decedent’s spouse
- children and grandchildren;
- brothers and sisters
- children of the deceased’s spouse (step-children); and
- devisees under a will and beneficiaries of a living trust.
If you are a wrongful death claimant in a Michigan wrongful death case, you must take specific action to preserve your rights as a wrongful death claimant.
The wrongful death act has specific procedures to follow when a suit is settled. The act’s language pertaining to court approval of the settlement itself is actually optional (the court “may, with or without notice”, approve the settlement). However, the provisions applicable to distribution of the proceeds are mandatory. In Michigan, the claimants consist of a broad class. They include not just the usual suspects of spouse and children but also parents, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, step children, and will devisees. This is usually surprising to people. We are often told a relative hadn’t talked to the decedent for years. It is hard to understand why this person should get notice of the settlement let alone be able to make a claim to the proceeds. But, the standard for awarding damages (discussed below) should weed these people out if they really didn’t have a relationship with the decedent. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t try to seek damages which can cause prolonged and expensive litigation.
Wrongful Death Claimant: The Act
The Wrongful Death Claimant must follow MCL 600.2922 which provides:
After a hearing by the court, the court shall order payment from the proceeds of the reasonable medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses of the decedent for which the estate is liable. The proceeds shall not be applied to the payment of any other charges against the estate of the decedent. The court shall then enter an order distributing the proceeds to those persons designated in subsection (3) who suffered damages and to the estate of the deceased for compensation for conscious pain and suffering, if any, in the amount as the court or jury considers fair and equitable considering the relative damages sustained by each of the persons and the estate of the deceased.