Oregon Wrongful Death Claims: An Introduction

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Joe Di Bartolomeo is a top rated personal injury lawyer helping Oregon and Washington families

What is Wrongful Death Claim?

When the death of somebody is caused by carelessness, the personal representative of the deceased person may make a claim in court against the responsible party. However, this is only if the deceased could make the same claim had here she lived.

Who Makes the Claim?

In order to explain how these claims work, there are several definitions to work through. First, the person who makes the claim on behalf of the deceased party is called the “personal representative.” This is the same person that would represent an estate in any probate proceeding.

The personal representative is making a claim on the half of the “beneficiaries.” The statute defines the beneficiaries as those people who would be entitled to inherit the personal property of the deceased person under the laws of “intestate succession.” The laws of “intestate succession” are the statutes that direct distribution of personal property if a person dies without a will.  The wrongful death statute also allows a stepchild or stepparent, regardless of their status under the laws of intestate succession.

Who is The Claim Made Against?

The wrongful death claim can be made against any person, including a corporation, if their conduct was a significant factor in causing the death of another person. If the person who was negligent, and caused the death of another person also is deceased, then the claim can be made against that individual’s estate, by filing a claim against the personal representative of the negligent deceased party’s estate.

What Are the First Steps in Making a Claim?

In order to begin the process of making a wrongful death claim in Oregon, a personal representative must be appointed to represent the estate of the deceased party.se sometimes, a professional person, like an attorney or accountant may serve as the personal representative. This person is responsible to pursue the claim in the best interest of the beneficiaries. A personal representative is appointed by filing a petition with the probate court to open an estate, and appoint the individual as a personal representative.


One important part of the process is notice. The beneficiaries are entitled to be kept informed. Whenever petitions or motions are filed with the Probate Court, the statute requires that the beneficiaries be provided a copy of any petitions or motions.

What Happens In the Beginning of the Case?

A wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury claim in that the personal representative must show that the defendant or responsible party acted carelessly, and that that behavior was a significant factor in causing the death of the deceased party. In many cases, this requires early investigation of the facts of the accident or incident that caused the death of the deceased party.

Part of the investigation may involve identifying the responsible parties. For example, in a fatal traffic collision case, a driver who caused the collision may have been intoxicated. A personal representative, through their attorney, will investigate whether not somebody negligently served a visibly intoxicated person, and if so, there may be a claim against the provider of alcohol, as well as the intoxicated and negligent driver.

These claims involve special issues, including the type of compensation the personal representative can pursue on behalf of the beneficiaries. If you have questions about a wrongful death claim, call our office at 503-325-8600. We have investigated and pursued a wrongful death claims, and offer the benefit of our experience.