If your family has lost a loved one due to another individual or entity’s negligence, you have the ability to bring a civil lawsuit for damages. This can be done to recoup lost income, funeral expenses, or even to prevent future accidents from occurring. It has never been more important to find the right attorney during this difficult time to support your family and bring you peace of mind for the future. To learn more about your rights from a legal perspective, schedule a free consultation with The Law Office of Fredson Statmore Bitterman today.
Wrongful death defined
Each state has its own laws for wrongful death lawsuits and New Jersey defines wrongful death as a death “caused by wrongful act, neglect or default of another.” If the deceased person had lived, the conditions for their death must have been so that person should have been able to bring a personal injury claim to the court. Therefore, a surviving family member must file the claim on the deceased’s behalf.
The executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate will typically file the wrongful death claim, but damages recovered in the case are distributed to family members who were dependent or expected to inherit from the deceased person.
Those entitled to receive damages include:
- The spouse and children or grandchildren
- The surviving parents
- Siblings, nieces, or nephews
- Any person who can prove they were “actually dependent” on the deceased
Damages in a wrongful death case are intended to compensate for losses stemming from the unexpected passing of the deceased. Damages for the loss include:
- Financial support lost. These figures are based on what the deceased could have earned had they lived.
- Loss of companionship, care, comfort, and guidance
- Loss of services like cleaning, childcare, or other chores
- Medical, funeral, and burial expenses
Surviving family members are unable to recover damages for emotional distress or to recover punitive damages in a wrongful death case in New Jersey. However, a separate claim can be filed for negligent infliction of emotional distress to recover damages for severe emotional distress caused by the death. These damages can only be recovered if a family member was present when the death occurred and they suffered severe distress as a result.
What Does a Wrongful Death Claim Look Like?
Similar to a personal injury claim, a wrongful death lawsuit requires proof of negligence. To establish a party’s liability, the following elements must be proven:
- Duty – A duty of care was owed by the party to the victim. For instance, the party owed a duty to drive as a reasonable, prudent person and not place other motorists at risk of injury.
- Breach – The party breached the duty owed to the victim because they were driving while drunk, while distracted, or they were driving at a dangerous speed.
- Causation – The party’s irresponsible actions served as the proximate cause of the victim’s death. For example, if the party had not been carelessly driving, the victim would not have been killed.
- Damages – Damages are the financial losses that resulted from the death of their family member.
Statute of Limitations
Time is of the essence when it comes to filing a lawsuit. In New Jersey — as in other states — the statute of limitations depends on the type of case. For a wrongful death claim in New Jersey, you must bring the claim within two years after the date of the victim’s death.
A great deal of work goes into investigating and preparing a wrongful death lawsuit so it is important that you don’t wait too long before contacting an experienced wrongful death attorney if you believe that your loved one died because of the careless, reckless, or intentional actions of another person.
Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney
If you believe that your loved one died as a result of negligence, hiring a wrongful death attorney will investigate and prepare the strongest case to ensure that you are well compensated for your loss. At The Law Office of Fredson Statmore Bitterman, we go above and beyond to help you understand your prospects. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. When you hire us, our wrongful death attorneys will provide you with the legal advice and representation that can help you recover what you are owed.