When Can A Wrongful Death Claim Be Pursued in New Jersey?
Wrongful death cases are among one of the most difficult types of personal injury claims. Even though a family has to deal with the personal loss and emotional grief of a loved one’s passing, they may not realize that the law may entitle them to recover financial compensation when someone else was legally at fault for their family member’s death. If your family has lost a loved one, it’s important to know when a wrongful death claim can be pursued in New Jersey.
When Do You Have a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under New Jersey law, a wrongful death claim may be brought when an individual’s death is caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” A wrongful death claim is often thought of as a type of claim that the decedent could have brought had they survived injuries or illness that were inflicted upon them by someone else’s actions or fault.
As a result, a wrongful death claim is usually brought when a family member’s death is caused by someone else’s negligence, such as a driver’s negligence that causes a motor vehicle crash, or a doctor’s negligence that results in medical malpractice. Proving negligence requires your family to prove four separate elements.
- Duty: The party at fault for your loved one’s passing owed the decedent some duty of care
- Breach: The at-fault party’s conduct failed to meet the required standard of care (such as a motorist speeding or driving under the influence)
- Causation: The at-fault party’s breach of their duty of care was directly and proximately responsible for causing your loved one’s death
- Damages: Your family and your loved one have suffered losses that can be financially compensated
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim in New Jersey must be brought by the personal representative of the deceased person, typically the administrator or executor of the decedent’s estate (which is often a spouse or relative). The personal representative brings the wrongful death claim on behalf of those surviving family members entitled to inherit from the decedent under intestacy laws, including:
- A surviving spouse
- Surviving children (including legally adopted children) and other descendants
- Surviving parents
- Surviving siblings
However, to recover wrongful death damages, a surviving family member must establish some sort of actual dependency on the decedent.
What Compensation Can You Obtain in a Wrongful Death Claim?
In New Jersey, a wrongful death claim can typically only recover actual financial losses incurred as a result of an individual’s death. Pain and suffering experienced by the decedent may be recovered in a separate but related “survival” action. Surviving family members may not recover compensation for grief and emotional distress, but may be entitled to pursue a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim if a surviving family member was present at and witnessed the accident or incident that caused their loved one’s fatal injuries.
Compensation that can be pursued in a wrongful death case includes:
- Loss of expected financial contributions of the decedent to their family and household, including wages, income, and employment benefits, over the course of their expected career or lifespan
- Loss of the economic value of services the decedent provided to their household, such as child care, cleaning, or home maintenance
- Funeral and burial expenses
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
New Jersey’s statute of limitations on wrongful death claims typically requires a lawsuit to be filed within two years of the date of the decedent’s death. Under limited circumstances, this period may be extended, or “tolled.” Failure to file a lawsuit before the limitations period expires on a wrongful death claim may lead the court to permanently dismiss any lawsuit that is filed.
Contact a Red Bank Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Wrongful Death Case in New Jersey
Did you lose a loved one as a result of someone’s negligence in New Jersey? Don’t let the medical bills and funeral costs pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Drazin and Warshaw, P.C. represent clients injured in Red Bank, Farmingdale, Belmar, Millstone and throughout Monmouth County, Ocean County and Middlesex County, New Jersey. Call (732) 576-8860 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 25 Reckless Place, Red Bank, NJ 07701 as well as offices in Hazlet and Brick.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.