Wrongful Death Laws in North Dakota

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Losing a relative or a loved one certainly takes an enormous toll on the decedent’s surviving family members. Left in a state of grief and despair, the surviving friends and family must find a way to deal with the emotional impact of losing a relative. The surviving family members must also face the economic realities the situation. For example, the surviving family members often must figure out how future bills and expenses will be covered.

In these situations, a wrongful death cause of action may be available to help certain surviving family members seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. In a nutshell, a wrongful death lawsuit is a type of civil action that is brought against a person or entity who can be held liable for the death of another individual. Because wrongful death claims are established and mandated by state law, it is difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all description of a wrongful death claim.

If you have experienced the death of loved one, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our wrongful death attorneys.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in North Dakota?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action typically initiated by the surviving family members of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. If successful, a wrongful death lawsuit can provide financial compensation in the form of damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.

In general, a fatality caused by the wrongful acts of another individual may provide grounds for the initiation of wrongful death claim. The State of North Dakota defines a wrongful death as one that arises from the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another. The North Dakota wrongful death statute also includes deaths caused by a wrongful act that would otherwise amount to a criminal felony under state law.

It may be helpful to think of North Dakota’s wrongful death statute as essentially equating a wrongful death claim to a personal injury claim that the deceased would have been able to bring if death had not occurred. This means that if the actions of the at-fault party would have entitled the deceased to pursue a personal injury claim, then the survivors of the deceased will be able to pursue a wrongful death claim in order to establish the defendant’s liability and seek damages. The act that causes death may be negligent, reckless, or intentional, as long as it is the kind of act that would have allowed the deceased person to bring a personal injury claim had he or she lived.

It should be noted that although the circumstances of a case may prompt law enforcement and prosecutors to criminally charge a defendant, a civil wrongful death action may still be pursued in civil court. However, because the interaction of criminal and civil cases arising from the same occurrence may pose difficult legal questions, it is worth discussing your options with a wrongful death attorney.

Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in North Dakota?

North Dakota law provides an ordered list of the individuals who may file a wrongful death claim. The order of individuals who may file a wrongful death claim is as follows:

  • The surviving spouse of the deceased person, if any
  • A surviving child or children of the deceased person, if any
  • The surviving mother or father of the deceased person
  • Any surviving grandparent of the deceased person
  • The personal representative of the deceased person
  • A person who has had primary physical custody of the deceased person before the wrongful act occurred

The ordered list represents the right to file a claim of wrongful death. For instance, if the decedent is survived by a spouse, two children, and one parent, the decedent’s spouse retains the right to file a wrongful death claim, followed by the decedent’s children, and finally by the parent of the decedent.

North Dakota law also provides that if any person who is entitled to file a wrongful death claim refuses or neglects to do so for a period of thirty days after demand of the person next in order, that next person may bring the action. For instance, if a surviving child of the decedent asks the surviving spouse to file a wrongful death claim and the surviving spouse does not do so within thirty days, the surviving child may file the claim.

What Damages are Available in a North Dakota Wrongful Death Claim?

The types of damages available in a successful wrongful death claim can be divided into economic and non-economic damages. Damages awarded in a wrongful death case are paid to the beneficiaries directly, and may not be taxed as part of the estate.

Economic damages comprise:

  • Funeral and burial expenses;
  • Medical expenses;
  • Rehabilitation services and custodial care;
  • Loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity;
  • Loss of income and loss of support; and
  • Loss of employment, employment opportunities, or loss of business

Non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Mental and emotional anguish;
  • Loss of society, companionship, or consortium; and
  • Injury to reputation; and
  • Physical impairment or disfigurement

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in North Dakota?

North Dakota law mandates that a wrongful death claim be filed within two years of the date of the deceased’s death. This statute of limitations means that wrongful death claims filed more than two years after the date of the deceased’s death are effectively barred from being litigated in court. However, some circumstances may “toll” or pause this time period. If you find yourself near the filing deadline, it is worth discussing your case with a attorney who may be able to provide valuable information and guidance regarding North Dakota’s statute of limitations.


At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys have plenty of experience litigating and resolving wrongful death cases. Our team has the resources necessary to help build the strongest claim following the death of a loved one. Our dedicated attorneys are on stand-by, waiting to help grieving family members seek fair compensation for their losses.

If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation.

Meetings with attorneys are by appointment only.