July 17, 2019

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Can I Receive Wrongful Death Compensation for the Loss of my Common-Law Spouse?

Delaware does not and never has allowed common-law marriages to be formed, but it does recognize common law marriages that were legally formed in the states that do or that did at the time you formed yours. So, the first thing you need to figure out is if you had a valid common-law marriage, and if you can prove it. It is crucial that you talk to an experienced Delaware wrongful death attorney to establish your status as the surviving spouse.

Delaware Wrongful Death Beneficiaries

In Delaware, wrongful death beneficiaries can include:

  • Spouse
  • Parents
  • Child or children
  • Siblings

If none of the above exist, beneficiaries can include anyone related to the deceased by blood or marriage. As broad as that may sound, it does nothing to provide for life-partners, fiancés, or others whose lives were intimately intertwined with that of the deceased. This creates a problem for those who believed they were in a common-law marriage, or who had formed a valid common-law marriage but are unable to prove it.

Survival Action

If you are unable to prove that you qualify as a spouse, you may still benefit from a survival action. A survival action compensates the estate for the deceased’s conscious pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost income incurred from the time of injury to the time of death. If you are named in the will, a survival action may increase your inheritance.

If your loved one died instantly, there is little or nothing to recover in a survival action. But, every case is unique and in many accidents a victim will suffer for days or months before succumbing to their injuries. A survival action can bring some measure of justice for the suffering.

To learn more about wrongful death and common law marriage, please contact an experienced Delaware wrongful death attorney today.

About Sandra Dalton

With a background as a paralegal, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights, Sandra Dalton launched her freelance writing career in 2000 with a weekly column on Freedom for Suite 101 and pro bono projects for individuals and organizations supporting causes close to her heart. One of her first projects was for the Police Compliant Center writing about police misconduct. Sandra’s legal writing quickly expanded to include personal injury, animal welfare, criminal defense, disability discrimination, family law and much more.

Sandra’s other writing around the web includes a broad range of topics such as food, pet health, feral cats, music and film. Sandra is also a fine art photographer, helps with animal rescue and TNR in her community, and volunteers as a DJ at her local radio station.