Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey?

People who have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence should understand the laws in New Jersey that govern wrongful death lawsuits.

Losing a loved one under any circumstances is upsetting, though it may be especially frustrating when it occurs due to someone else's negligence. In New Jersey, survivors may find some recourse in taking action against the party responsible for the incident.

According to state law, only specific people may recover damages from a wrongful death lawsuit. There are several other laws that shape the way these claims look.

Defining wrongful death

A wrongful death can occur anytime someone's negligence played a role in someone else's death. Essentially, any accident that would result in a personal injury lawsuit could be considered a wrongful death lawsuit when the incident is fatal. Therefore, a wrongful death can stem from a motor vehicle accident, dog attack, defective product or medical error.

Filing the lawsuit

Only certain people may initiate a wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey. The law states that the executor of the decedent's will, or the personal representative of the estate, may file the claim. The damages that are recovered may then be distributed to the person's survivors, which can include the following:

  • The decedent's spouse
  • The decedent's children and/or grandchildren
  • The decedent's parents
  • The decedent's siblings, nephews and nieces

In other circumstances, anyone wishing to claim damages must be able to prove that he or she was dependent on the decedent.

Typically, all damages from a wrongful death suit will go to a spouse and the decedent's children. The other possible beneficiaries may only receive compensation if there is no spouse or child.

Damages available

There are two types of damages available following a wrongful death incident: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those that seek to replace financial losses the family has suffered, such as a loss of income as well as the cost of a funeral and medical expenses.

Non-economic damages address the loss of companionship that survivors may feel. According to the New Jersey Courts, a wrongful death claim will not take into account damages for the decedent's pain and suffering prior to death, as a personal injury claim for someone who survives an incident might.

Meeting the deadline

One other important item people who intend to seek legal recourse should know is that New Jersey places a statute of limitations on when these lawsuits must be filed. According to the law, these claims must be initiated within two years of the decedent's death. However, if the death stems from a criminal charge of aggravated manslaughter, murder or manslaughter, and the defendant is convicted of the crime, the suit may be filed at any time.

Anyone who has concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in New Jersey.