The loss of a family member is an extremely tragic and troubling event. In addition to the enormous amount of pain and suffering, surviving family members can struggle without the steady income of the decedent.
When a loved one dies as the result of the wrongful acts or negligence of another person, there are grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Whether the negligent party was an individual, a corporation, or public entity, the surviving family members are entitled to compensation for the victim’s death. Both negligent and intentional acts can result in liability in wrongful death claims.
Medical malpractice accounts for a large portion of wrongful death lawsuits, causing upwards of 100,000 deaths per year. Car accidents, unsafe products, and workplace accidents can also result in a wrongful death suit if the victim is killed as a result of another person’s negligence. Every state has some sort of wrongful death law in place, although they can vary from state to state.
The loss of a loved one is life’s most stressful event.
During this difficult time, make sure you have an experienced wrongful death attorney on your side. Wrongful death claims can be very complex, and you and your family deserve compensation for your loss.
Who Brings a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death claims are distinct from personal injury lawsuits because personal injury suits are brought by the victim. But in the case of a wrongful death, the victim is unable to receive his or her just compensation.
A wrongful death lawsuit is technically brought by the decedent’s estate or heirs—namely his or her spouse and children who received benefit from the deceased during his or her life.
In order to bring a wrongful death claim, the decedent’s family members must prove that they have suffered (and will continue to suffer) financial losses as a result of the death. Damages in a wrongful death suit are based on monetary contributions the decedent was reasonably expected to make to survivors, rather than the survivors’ unique needs.
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What is a Survival Action?
Wrongful death lawsuits and survivor actions both deal with compensation after death, but in different ways.
A survival action allows a decedent’s estate to make a claim for the decedent’s injuries before he or she died. Unlike a wrongful death suit, a survival action deals with the pain and suffering of the deceased, rather than the pain and suffering of the surviving family members. A survival action allows for compensation for pain and suffering in the time span between injury and death.
For example, take a construction worker who was gravely injured in a structural collapse. He suffered many physical injuries, emotional pain, decreased quality of life, and lost out on several weeks of wages. He planned to file a personal injury suit against his employer, but he died of medical complications before being able to. A survival action allows the decedent’s estate to collect damages for the construction worker’s pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.
One key difference between a survival action and a wrongful death claim is that, in survival actions, the damages recovered go the decedent’s estate, not directly to the family members; the damages are then distributed according to the decedent’s will (or according to state law, if there is no will).
A wife and mother of one boy suffered kidney failure requiring dialysis. While undergoing the surgical procedure of inserting a Permacath System for the dialysis process, the surgeon punctured an artery resulting in substantial blood loss leading to death. The defense claimed that such punctures are a known risk of the surgery, that the mother would have a reduced life expectancy due to her kidney failure and claimed use of recreational drugs such as cocaine as trace amounts were found in her system during hospitalization. Despite these arguments from the defense, the case settled for $750,000 against the surgeon.
Verdicts and Settlements
For the wrongful death of car accident victim who died while being prepared for emergency surgery.
What Damages Are You Entitled To?
Under the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act, surviving family members are eligible to recover the actual financial losses of the decedent’s earnings, as well as the value of the services, care, assistance, guidance, training, advice, counsel, and companionship the survivors would have received from the decedent. A plaintiff in a wrongful death claim is also often awarded damages for medical expenses and funeral costs.
However, surviving family members are not able to recover emotional damages, such as pain and suffering, related to the wrongful death.
If pursuing a survival action, the plaintiff is eligible to recover damages for the decedent’s hospital and medical expenses, loss of earnings, disability and impairment, loss of enjoyment, and pain and suffering sustained between the injury and death.
Unfortunately, there are significant limitations on what types of compensation are recoverable in wrongful death cases in New Jersey and New York. Therefore, it is imperative to pay careful attention to developing the claims of conscious pain and suffering of the deceased, proving recoverable losses to the beneficiaries, and retaining the right experts to demonstrate fully the losses suffered.
Economic damages are not limited to actual financial loss, such as loss of wages. Often, a complete life story must be told to fully communicate the losses of care, guidance, companionship, supervision, and services that have been lost for surviving family members.
When Should You File Suit?
In New Jersey and New York, there is a two-year statute of limitations in wrongful death claims. In other words, if you plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you must do so within two years of the death in question.
If you fail to file suit within two years of the death, you and your family could lose out on compensation for the wrongful death.
The death of a loved one marks an extremely difficult time for surviving family members. However, it is important to start on a wrongful death claim as soon as possible to maximize the potential for compensation.
Hire an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
During this tragic time, it is important to have an experienced lawyer handling your claim. With the help of the right attorney, you and your family can start on the road to recovery and hold the negligent party accountable for its actions. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have more than eight decades’ worth of experience fighting for their clients, both in and out of the courtroom. They will vigorously investigate your case and make sure you and your family are justly represented in your wrongful death suit. Contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi at (201) 585-9111 or fill out a Quick Inquiry form to schedule your consultation today. Your initial consultation is always free and confidential, and now fees are due until Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi win your case.