Never Discount the Challenge of a Wrongful Death Claim
- Dan T. Matrafajlo
- Thu Mar 2016
- Wrongful Death,
The words “wrongful death” seem to say it all. Someone has died and another party is responsible for their demise. It all seems so elementary. How could there possibly be challenges associated with pursuing a wrongful death claim? Surely compensation is available to those suffering from the loss of a loved one.
New Jersey and the Wrongful Death Act
The term “wrongful death” seems somewhat self-explanatory. Of course, when we lose a loved one, there is nothing rightful about it. However, wrongful death is the presumption that someone else is responsible for an individual parting from life at the hands of another. For example, if someone dies because they hit their head after a fall on a raised sidewalk, we may categorize their death as wrongful. The same is true if injuries from an automobile accident caused a loved one’s early demise. Medical malpractice can be exemplary of wrongful death claims. The list goes on.
In order to pursue a wrongful death claim, it must be done in accordance with the law. The statute that discusses these types of matters is entitled the Wrongful Death Act. The language of the law is found at NJSA 2A:31-1, et seq. In short, it assumes that the decedent could have pursued an action if the death was the result of wrongful act, neglect or default.
The person qualified to bring the lawsuit may have been named as the executor or executrix in the decedent’s will. Otherwise, they must be appointed by the court as the administrator ad prosequendum. This person is determined using the lines of kinship as outlined by the statutes. (For example, a surviving spouse is the first person eligible to bring a lawsuit.)
It is important to note that wrongful death actions can only be brought under certain circumstances. For example, this might include the loss of a weekly income to cover household finances. It might mean a documented promise of college tuition. Items considered recoverable under the wrongful death statute fall into these categories:
- Loss of current and future financial support
- Loss of assistance, guidance, and companionship
- Medical bills associated with the loss
- Funeral costs
Survivor Actions for Wrongful Death Claims
The Survivor’s Act is found at NJSA 2A:15-3 and is used in conjunction with the Wrongful Death Act. The difference between the two laws is that the Survivor’s Act allows for recovery of damages that commenced at the time of injury and continued through the decedent’s ultimate demise. This would allow a claim for someone who suffered from car accident injuries, but did not die at the scene. Pain and suffering are notable claims made under this portion of the law.
Losing a loved one is never easy. Of course, the matter is further compounded if you were reliant on the decedent’s income. At the Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafaljo, we have experience handling wrongful death claims. Contact us concerning a potential claim on behalf of your loved one’s estate.