Rules for wrongful death lawsuits in New Jersey
New Jersey has a fairly restrictive statute for wrongful death actions. Parties with standing to bring an action are those who would inherit from the decedent under New Jersey’s laws of inheritance:
- The surviving spouse and children
- If no surviving spouse or children exist, then the victim’s surviving parents
- If no surviving parents exist, then the victim’s surviving brothers, sisters, nieces, or nephews.
However, the relationship alone is not decisive. A would-be plaintiff must also prove financial dependence on the decedent.
Plaintiffs in a New Jersey wrongful death suit can only recover economic damages. These include:
- Lost income – The income the victim would have actually earned (including benefits) and contributed to the dependent survivors. A financial expert usually extrapolates earnings over the projected normal working lifetime of the decedent. Any award for lost income would deduct income taxes the victim would have paid and amounts spent on personal maintenance.
- Loss of services – Plaintiffs can recover the reasonable economic value of the services, assistance, guidance, and training the victim would have provided. Again, a financial expert would compile an estimate of the costs you would have to pay for someone else to provide the same services.
- Reasonable funeral and medical expenses – Plaintiffs can recover for actual amounts spent, as long as the expenses were not exorbitant.
Plaintiffs cannot recover for their pain and suffering or other emotional losses. However, if a plaintiff witnessed the death, a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress is possible. Punitive damages, sometimes added when the defendant’s behavior in causing the death was particularly egregious, are not available in a wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey.
The statute of limitations for most wrongful death actions in New Jersey is two years from the date of death. If you do not file a lawsuit within that time frame, you generally lose all rights to recover damages.
Filing a survival action in New Jersey
A survival action is a lawsuit that a representative of the decedent’s estate brings to recover personal injury damages the victim would have been entitled to if the injuries had not led to death. There is some overlap with the damages for wrongful death, such as recovery for lost income, medical bills, and funeral expenses, but there is one very important addition: compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering. For example, if the victim of a car crash was hospitalized, had several surgeries to save his life, and died three months after the crash, the victim would be able to recover compensation for three months of anguish. In contrast, a victim of a car crash who died at the scene might not be eligible for any pain and suffering recovery.
Damages for a survival action do not go to individual plaintiffs; the damages go to the estate and are dispensed to heirs according to the decedent’s will or estate plan. If the decedent had no will, the damages go into the estate and pass to the heirs according to New Jersey’s laws of intestacy.
The statute of limitations allows a decedent’s estate two years from the date of death to file a survival action.
Frequently asked questions about wrongful death claims
If you’ve lost a loved one, it is entirely natural to have questions about your rights. Our team is standing by to speak with you when you contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss the facts of your case. In the meantime, we’ve provided the answers to some frequently asked questions here:
How do I know if I have a wrongful death claim?
The critical requirement that must be satisfied to secure compensation in a wrongful death case is that your loved one died due to the actions or inactions of another person or party. If someone had a duty to protect your loved one from harm, whether that was driving responsibly, providing an adequate standard of medical care, or designing and manufacturing a safe product and failed to do so, surviving family members could have a valid wrongful death claim. As with any civil action, the types and amount of compensation you can recover will depend on the specific circumstances of your situation, so it will be crucial to speak with an experienced attorney to learn more.
What qualities should I look for in an attorney?
When you are choosing an attorney to handle a wrongful death claim, there are two essential qualities to look for: the ability to capably manage your case and the sensitivity to work closely with you during your period of intense grief. At Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers, you get both. We are a preeminent injury law firm, having recovered more than $300 million in compensation for our clients. We are also highly empathetic and dedicated to the highest standards of client service from your first free consultation to the successful resolution of your case.
How much does it cost to hire Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers?
We believe in up-front, honest communication with our clients about our legal fees. We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you pay nothing until we win your case. We know that the loss of a loved one can put significant strain on your family’s finances, so you should never have to worry about how you’ll afford our services. If we don’t secure a successful settlement or verdict for you, you won’t owe us anything at all.
Contact an exemplary NJ law firm for your wrongful death claim
Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers provides highly professional and ethical representation for wrongful death claims throughout New Jersey. Let us help you obtain the full compensation you deserve for your tragic loss. Call us today at 973-364-8300 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.