When someone is killed by the reckless, careless or negligent actions of another, a wrongful death lawsuit can often be brought to seek compensation for damages suffered by their dependents or other family members.
The lawyers at Davis & Brusca, LLC have a 20+ year history of helping people seek justice when the death of their loved one was caused by the negligence of another person or company. While no amount of money can replace the emotional losses, out legal team is committed to helping our clients seek the maximum compensation available under the law.
A wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey is filed in civil court. These claims can be filed regardless of whether a criminal claim is brought by the state to prosecute the wrongdoer, and the purpose of the civil suit is to reimburse the family members and dependents for the loss of income, support, guidance and “society” (think “companionship”) they suffer as a result of the death of their loved one.
The general statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey requires the lawsuit to be filed within two (2) years of the date the fatality occurred and is generally brought by the administrator/executor of the estate or other person designated as the “prosecutor” of the case. Compensation awarded in the wrongful death suit is generally distributed amongst those members of the family and dependents of the deceased who are legally entitled to recover. The surviving spouse and/or dependent children are usually the primary beneficiaries. In the event that there is no surviving spouse or children, the governing statute will outline those who are entitled to recover. This can include the parents of the deceased, siblings, nieces, or nephews of the deceased.
Compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit is intended to cover the losses suffered by the family of the deceased. This can include compensation for loss of wages and support that the victim would have provided to their spouse and family had they not passed away. Medical bills resulting from the illness or conditions related to the death, as well as funeral and burial expenses, can also be recovered.
In some cases, families can be compensated for such things as the loss of companionship, comfort, guidance, and care that the loved one would have contributed to the family had they not passed away. Compensation can also be provided to cover services provided by the deceased, such as cleaning, childcare, meal preparation, or supervision of an aging or infirmed parent.
In New Jersey, plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit cannot file for damages related to emotional pain. Depending on the facts of the case, there may also be justification for other claims, such as the conscious pain and suffering experienced by the decedent prior to death.
The burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit, as with any civil claim, falls on the plaintiff. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligent or reckless actions of the defendant(s) caused the death of their loved one. They must show that the defendant had a duty of care to the deceased, that the defendant breached their duty of care, and that the result was the death. Proving these elements can be complex. For example, a pharmaceutical company has the duty of care to provide medication that is safe and free from unnecessary risk to the patient. A breach in that duty of care could result from the pharmaceutical company’s failure to provide adequate warnings about dangerous interactions related to this medication. Wrongful death occurs when the patient dies because they suffered a toxic interaction.
Finally, the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit must show causation, which is the specific negligent action that resulted in the passing. In the pharmaceutical example, the plaintiff would need to prove that the death of their loved one occurred directly from the mixture of the prescribed medication with another drug that the patient would not have taken had a warning been placed on the packaging.