There are two types of wrongful death statutes, the personal representative type, and the beneficiary type. With the personal representative type, the action is brought by the personal representative of the deceased on behalf of all persons statutorily eligible to benefit from the action. In the beneficiary type of statute, the statutorily authorized beneficiaries are joined together and bring the action in their own names.

Irrespective of the type of statute, the statutes seem to name clearly the persons who are acceptable beneficiaries. These beneficiaries, at a minimum, include spouses, parents and children. The difficult issues arise when the plaintiff does not exactly fall within the statutory defined class of acceptable beneficiaries (e.g. common law spouses, or illegitimate children). The balance of this paper discusses spouses, parents and children as acceptable beneficiaries within the outer limits of the context of wrongful death statutes.