Wrongful Death Cases in New Jersey
The death of a loved one can be a painful experience. Not only are you and your family experiencing the emotional pain of losing someone, but the financial issues that accompany a death can be an extreme hardship on a family as well. On top of that, you will be dealing with the stress of planning a funeral and taking care of personal effects and business affairs in the days and weeks after they pass.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is described as the death of a person that was caused by an act that should not have occurred (such as neglect) or an act that the person would have been compensated for had they not passed away.
According to N.J.S.A. 2A:31-4, a wrongful death claim can be made by the surviving dependents of the deceased person. The value of the claim is determined on financial impact — not emotional loss — including loss of financial support, medical bills, funeral expenses and/or the amount one would have been awarded via a personal injury claim had he/she survived.
Common wrongful death cases include:
- Car accidents caused by reckless driver or automobile defect
- Work accidents
- Accidents on someone else’s property
- Deaths caused by defective products
- Neglect of medical care or malpractice
- Criminal acts
- Nursing home abuse & neglect
Who Can File and When?
A wrongful death claim must be made by surviving heirs or dependents of the deceased person. The claim can be made in the civil court within two years of the death of the person. Due to New Jersey’s statute of limitations, if the case is filed outside of two years, it is likely to be barred from court.
Those who can file include:
- Surviving spouse
- Minor children
- Other family members that were financially dependent on the deceased
The person or persons filing will be required to demonstrate financial dependency on the deceased person in question.
Proving a Wrongful Death Case
In order to have a viable case, you or your lawyer must have proof of a wrongful act, neglect or default. Four elements must be shown:
- Duty – It must be shown that the party being filed against owed a certain duty of care to the deceased person. For example, a construction company owes its workers safe equipment.
- Breach – The duty named must have been breached. For example, the construction company was using guardrails for a catwalk that did not meet industry standards.
- Causation – The breach must have been the cause of death. If the company had been using guardrails that conformed to safety requirements, the victim would not have fallen.
- Damages – The dependents filing the wrongful death case must have proof of financial loss. For example, the spouse of the worker who fell can file for lost financial support.
What Losses Can You Recover in Wrongful Death Cases?
Emotional damages or suffering cannot be taken into account in a New Jersey Wrongful Death case. Only financial losses can be filed and recovered in a wrongful death case. These include:
- Loss of income – If the person filing for wrongful death is dependent in part or full to the income that the victim contributed, he/she can file for loss of financial support from the victim. This includes spouse and children.
- Funeral or medical expenses – Family or dependents filing a wrongful death lawsuit can file for the costs of the funeral or medical fees.
- Loss of services – If the victim provided the dependent with household services such as child care, the person or persons filing can request compensation for these household services.
Hiring an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
Coping with the loss of a loved one can be overwhelmingly stressful. You need an attorney who is compassionate and will fight for your rights to compensation in the event of a careless, wrongful or otherwise criminal death.
Due to the emotional nature of wrongful death cases and the complexity of the legal issues, it is important to consult trusted legal counsel if you feel that you and your family may have a case for wrongful death.
At Dansky | Katz | Ringold | York, our attorneys will provide you expert consultation and legal representation for you and your family during your time of need. These types of cases can be difficult to win and taxing on all who are involved.
Our team’s level of skill and dedication to your family can make the difference for securing the compensation you are due for the unwarranted loss of your loved one.