Both Minnesota and North Dakota laws describe a “wrongful death” as the loss of life caused by a “wrongful act,” negligence, or intentional act of a person or corporation. Since the individual cannot protect their legal interests, their surviving family, close relatives, or a trustee may lodge a claim on his/her behalf against the culprit.

In both states, the remedy granted after a successful suit is monetary damages. Though the definitions and remedies available are similar in both states, there are some differences which are discussed below.

Who Can File A Suit For Wrongful Death?

In both states, the surviving family (spouse and children) and close relatives (parents and grandparents) can make a claim on behalf of the individual, however there are some differences between the two states.


  1. In Minnesota, a sibling can make a claim, which isn’t the case in North Dakota. In North Dakota, other than a spouse, child, grandparent, or parent, only a personal representative of the deceased’s estate or the one who had primary physical custody before his/her death can make a claim.
  2. In Minnesota, family members can appoint a trustee or ask the court to appoint one to make a claim on behalf of the family members. A trustee is an individual who is given non-administrative powers of property that has a legal obligation to administer remedy, or monetary damages, as specified by the court. The trustee must give consent in writing to the family or court and must show the court how the funds were distributed.
  3. While in North Dakota, family members cannot name a trustee; only specific people can make a claim, and there is a hierarchy to be followed.

The hierarchy:

a) Spouse

b) Child(ren)

c) Parent

d) Grandparent

e) A personal representative of the deceased estate

f) The person who had primary custody of the deceased’s before their death.

It is arranged from top to bottom, by priority, e. If a spouse and child survive, the spouse has the first right to make a claim. If, in any case, the person entitled to file the claim, following the hierarchy, fails to do so within thirty days after being directed to do so by the person next in order, that secondary person may lodge the claim.

Statute of Limitation

The statute of limitations is a certain length of time you are able to bring a case to court from the date of the offense. For example, if a crime has a statute of limitation of two years, you then have two years from the date the crime occurred to bring the case before the courts.

Statutes of Limitations vary between states, and for individual crimes. It is best to contact a lawyer to ask about whether your case can still be brought to the courts.

In Minnesota, a wrongful death claim must be made within three years of the date of the deceased person’s death.
In North Dakota, the claim must be made within two years.


Damages refer to the sum of money that is assigned to the breech or violation of someone’s rights and the losses obtained by those violations.


  1. In both Minnesota and North Dakota, wrongful death claims are civil cases, and the remedy available is monetary damages.
  2. In both states, the persons claiming must prove that they suffered a loss for which the courts will decide a monetary value to be paid to the person making the claim.


  1. In North Dakota, damages are divided into two categories: economic and non-economic. The two categories are defined as follows:
    1. Economic: Compensation from monetary losses such as income.
    2. Non-economic: Compensation from trauma such as pain, emotional anguish, humiliation, reputation damages, loss of enjoyment in activities, etc.
  2. In Minnesota, damages are more generalized into “Pecuniary Loss.” Pecuniary losses entail the following:
    1. Loss of earnings
    2. Expenses for funeral/burial costs
    3. Loss of services, protection, care, etc
    4. Metal Anguish, sorrow, loss of solace, etc
    5. Loss of companionship, guidance, care, etc

If you or a loved one may have a Wrongful Death case, contact our office today to talk to an experience attorney about getting the compensation you deserve.