Filing a lawsuit may feel like the last concern on many family members’ minds in the immediate aftermath of a tragic accident. But a wrongful death claim can be an essential part of the healing process for those who are left to pick up the pieces. For one, the compensation you could recover can help keep your family financially afloat, especially if the deceased was the primary breadwinner. Furthermore, a successful wrongful death claim can often provide a measure of justice and closure, sending a strong message to the at-fault party that their actions were not acceptable.
The attorneys at Taylor, Taylor, Cohen & Bowles are ready to talk when you are. Our goal is to help you and your family recover every dollar of compensation that you need and deserve after losing a loved one. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can preserve the evidence you will need to prove your claims.
Call us or contact us online now to take advantage of a free consultation. We can help you pursue the money your family needs to stay financially stable after an unexpected death, and in the process achieve justice and closure.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in NJ?
Only specific people are eligible to file wrongful death lawsuits under New Jersey law. These people are essentially the personal representatives of the deceased, and they usually bring wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of certain surviving family members.
Eligible relatives who could be entitled to wrongful death compensation may include:
- Surviving spouse
- Nieces and nephews
- Any other person who can prove actual dependence upon the deceased
Damages are distributed to those eligible to recover under intestate law, in proportion to their pecuniary loss. A pecuniary loss is a loss that can be evaluated in monetary terms, commonly referred to as economic damages.
When there is a spouse and no children or parents, everything will go to the spouse.
If there is a surviving spouse and children, the spouse gets the first $50,000.00 obtained, and one half of the balance of the estate when the children are the children of the surviving spouse. If the deceased had children with someone other than the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse recovers one half of the Estate without recovering the first $50,000.00 obtained. All assets not paid to the surviving spouse are divided equally among the children.
When there is a surviving spouse and parents with no children, the spouse gets the first $50,000, plus half of the balance of the estate, and the remainder is divided equally among the parents.
If there are parents but no children or spouse, the parents share equally. If there are no parents, children, or spouse, then the estate is divided equally among the deceased’s siblings, if any.
The attorneys at Taylor, Taylor, Cohen & Bowles are ready to analyze your family situation to determine who could be entitled to recover under the circumstances.
What Do You Have to Prove in a Wrongful Death Case?
All wrongful death cases will require evidence to prove that your loved one’s death was someone else’s fault. This may include photographs or videos from the scene of the incident, witness statements, police reports, medical records, and more.
It is important to keep in mind that your civil case will be independent from any criminal case that might be filed in connection with your loved one’s death. For this reason, you should not be overly alarmed if the offender is not convicted of the crime they are charged with. A person can be “not guilty” in a criminal case, but liable in a civil case because the burden of proof is different:
- A prosecutor in a criminal case must prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high standard to satisfy. A person only needs to introduce enough evidence to create a reasonable doubt to avoid a conviction.
- The burden of proof in a civil wrongful death case is far lower. To prevail in a civil claim, you have to prove your claim by a preponderance of the evidence, which simply means it is more likely than not that the defendant caused your loved one’s death.
Even if the defendant is convicted in criminal court, this does not necessarily mean that you will receive any compensation. You must file a civil claim to recover funds. The lawyers at Taylor, Taylor, Cohen & Bowles are here to do this for you.
Compensation in a New Jersey Wrongful Death Claim
Like all cases for personal injury, many wrongful death cases are resolved through settlement negotiations, but some cases will go to trial.
When a case does reach trial, a person who successfully proves their claim could be awarded compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are usually a combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages. Wrongful death claims typically result in economic damages.
A wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation only for the financial losses suffered by the people who are still alive. In most cases, the types of damages awarded will be economic damages like funeral expenses, loss of income, loss of services, medical expenses, and lost companionship.
Under New Jersey law, your deceased loved one also has the right (through his/her Estate) to file a lawsuit for personal injuries. This is called the “Survivor’s Act.” The Act authorizes the executor or administrator of a decedent’s estate to file a survivorship action and obtain damages for the decedent’s pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages when the death was caused by another person’s wrongful act. Any damages are distributed to the decedent’s heirs, and lawsuits for wrongful death are generally filed under both the “Wrongful Death Act” and the “Survivor’s Act” at the same time.
Under New Jersey law, when parents sue for the wrongful death of their children, damages should not be limited to the loss of the child’s help with household chores or the loss of anticipated financial contributions by the child when they become a wage-earner. Juries are instructed to award damages for the parents’ loss of their child’s companionship as they grow older, “when it may be most needed and valuable.”
In a very limited number of cases, you could also be awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages can be awarded only when you prove that the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious and deserve to be punished.
Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death in N.J.
New Jersey law, establishes that a wrongful death or survivorship action must be commenced within two years of the death of the decedent. An action can be brought at any time when the death resulted from murder, aggravated manslaughter, or manslaughter for which the defendant was convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Certain exceptions do exist to the statute of limitations. One common exception is known as the discovery rule. Under the discovery rule, the limitations period does not start to run until the date that a person discovered the cause of a fatal injury. The discovery rule can be a useful exception for cases involving deaths caused by medical malpractice or mesothelioma, both of which could involve people dying long after the actual incident that caused their deaths. Not all accidents necessarily result in instant deaths. Some victims may survive weeks, months, or even years before dying. The statute of limitations on a Wrongful Death claim may depend on the date of a person’s death rather than the date of their accident. Do not wait – if you or a loved one was injured in any accident – call the lawyers at Taylor, Taylor, Cohen & Bowles right away.
If you do not file your lawsuit within this time period you will lose all rights to your case.
It is important that you speak with a Taylor, Taylor, Cohen & Bowles attorney right away to avoid missing any applicable deadlines.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Some of the most common causes of wrongful death claims in New Jersey include:
- Car Accidents
- Motorcycle Crashes
- Bicycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Commercial Truck Collisions
- Bus Accidents
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Alcohol or Drugs Accidents
- Ridesharing (Uber or Lyft) Accidents
- Slip and Fall Accidents
- Nursing Home Negligence
- Medical Malpractice
- Workplace Accidents
- Exposure to Chemicals or Other Dangerous Substances
- Construction Accidents
- Mining Accidents
- Aviation Accidents
- Product Defects
- Violent Crimes
How Our Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help You
The unexpected loss of a family member is one of the most tragic events that can happen in life. In the immediate aftermath of their death, you will likely be overwhelmed with grief and stress.
Trying to file a lawsuit at this time can be unthinkable, but the statute of limitations for wrongful death is short, and you don’t have time to lose. Rather than compromising your time for grieving with family members, hire a lawyer from Taylor, Taylor, Cohen & Bowles to handle your case for you while you mourn.
After some accidents, it is not uncommon for an insurance company for the negligent party to quickly contact a family and offer a lump-sum settlement to resolve the case. Do NOT speak to the insurance company or agree to anything until you speak with a Taylor, Taylor, Cohen & Bowles attorney.
Some family members may become justifiably concerned about whether the family is receiving a fair offer (chances are good they are not), but others may argue that the family should just hurry up and accept whatever they are being offered. These kinds of issues can create a lot of discord and dispute within families, which is all the more reason to let us handle negotiating a fair settlement.
In addition to negotiating with insurers, the lawyers at Taylor, Taylor, Cohen & Bowles can investigate the incident that led to your family member’s death and gather the necessary evidence to prove your claim. They can contact expert witnesses who can testify on your behalf, handle all documentation and legal filings, and craft a strategic demand letter that will give you the best chance of recovering the money your family needs.
Contact Us Now for Legal Help With a New Jersey Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Did you lose someone close to you due to another party’s negligence or wrongful conduct in New Jersey? You deserve justice. Taylor, Taylor, Cohen & Bowles can help.
We understand that losing a family member is hard, and especially so when the incident that caused their death could have been prevented if someone else had been more responsible. That’s why we vigorously represent our clients who have suffered such a devastating loss.
Our firm has been representing people since 1965 and has over a century of combined legal experience. We can discuss all of your legal options as soon as you call us or contact us online to set up a free consultation.