Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New Jersey?
Losing someone close to you can be a devastating experience. In a single moment, their support, guidance, and companionship are gone, replaced with grief, stress, and anger at those responsible for their death. While no amount of money can fill the empty space left in the wake of their passing, it can make up for their medical expenses, financial contributions, and funeral costs.
Bringing a successful wrongful death claim against the liable party/parties can help give you the funds you need to weather the challenging years ahead. Holding those responsible for your relative’s death accountable for their actions could also help give you a sense of closure. In this article, we will look at who can file a wrongful death claim and some of the damages you may be able to seek as part of a lawsuit.
Can I Seek Compensation for a Wrongful Death?
In New Jersey, a wrongful death claim is usually filed by a personal representative or executor of the deceased’s estate. The damages recovered as part of a claim are distributed amongst surviving family members who were dependent on the deceased or those who have a legal right to inheritance under the state’s laws.
Those who might receive a portion of such damages can include:
- The surviving parents of the deceased;
- The surviving spouse, children, and grandchildren;
- The surviving siblings, nephews, nieces of the deceased; or
- Any individual who can show that they were “actually dependent” on the deceased.
For those hoping to recover damages for a wrongful death, there is a pecking order for who will be compensated first. Typically, the deceased’s surviving children and/or spouse will receive a portion of the eventual recovery. However, if these family members are no longer alive, the deceased’s surviving parents are next in line. Only if there are no surviving parents, can siblings, nephews, or nieces pursue damages.
What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit are meant to compensate surviving family members and the deceased’s estate for their financial losses as a direct result of a relative’s death. You will not be able to seek damages for certain intangible losses such as emotional distress and pain and suffering. You might, however, be able to bring a separate case against the at-fault party to recover compensation for such losses if it can be shown that any of the surviving family members suffered severe mental distress because they were present when the victim died.
Let us look at some of the damages that might be recoverable in your case:
- Loss of Income: If you were financially dependent on the deceased, their death likely put an end to the income you relied on to get by. Fortunately, you may be able to pursue compensation for salary and benefits the deceased would have earned had they survived. Your attorney might consult with an economist to calculate this amount. He or she will consider a wide range of factors, such as the deceased’s income at the time of death, their expected career trajectory, how many more years they would have worked, and the amount the deceased would have spent on “personal maintenance and expense”.
- Loss of Services: From taking care of the children and fixing meals to helping balance the books, the deceased may have provided several services. After their death, those responsibilities often fall on the surviving family members. Many rely on other parties to step in and help juggle these new duties. Did you have to fork out for a babysitter? Were you forced to hire a maid to clean your home? Did you need to consult with a financial advisor to manage your savings? Even if you took on these responsibilities yourself, you may still be entitled to compensation for the cost of such services.
- Funeral and Burial Costs: Saying goodbye to a loved one is not just heartbreaking; it can also break the bank. Even a simple service can cost a small fortune, and that is before you’ve factored in additional costs such as the casket, headstone, and burial itself. To prove such damages, you will need to provide bills and receipts documenting these costs.
Take note: Punitive damages are not available to families as part of a wrongful death lawsuit.
Find a Wrongful Death Attorney in New Jersey
If you have lost someone close to you because of someone’s reckless, negligent, or intentional actions, you may be able to recover compensation for the damage they have done. At the Clark Law Firm, we have extensive experience handling a wide variety of wrongful death claims, and possess the knowledge and resources required to prevail in even the most complex cases. Dial 1-877-841-8855 or click through to our online contact form to schedule a case review.