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:
- Child or children
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.
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.