A wrongful death case is a type of personal injury case brought when a victim has died.
Under the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act, when the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default, which would have entitled the victim to bring an action for personal injury if he or she had lived, the victim’s survivors can bring a wrongful death action.
A wrongful death action can be brought even if the death was due to a crime.
A wrongful death action is brought by the heirs of the victim, such as the victim’s spouse, parents, or children.
If any of the victim’s heirs were dependent on the victim for support, their shares of a recovery in a wrongful death action are based on factors such as:
- The age of the dependents
- The physical and mental condition of the dependents
- The need and desire to provide dependents with education
- The dependents’ financial conditions
- The availability to the dependents of other means of support
Under New Jersey law, a parent will only be able to recover if he or she is dependent on a child for support or if the child has no surviving children or spouse.
A spouse does not have to have been dependent on the victim in order to bring a wrongful death action.
A person who has a “live in” relationship with a victim will not be able to bring a wrongful death action.However, people who enter into civil unions in New Jersey have the right to sue for wrongful death.Of course, same-sex couples who were legally married in New Jersey or another state or country will be treated the same as any other married couples in wrongful death cases.
Damages under the Wrongful Death Act are designed to replace the services (including family income) that the victim would have provided if he or she had lived.If the victim did not work outside the home, damages can also include the value of the household services (cooking, cleaning, yard work, child care, transportation, etc.) that the victim used to provide to the family.
Survivors are not entitled to receive damages for emotional injuries or grief unless they actually witnessed the wrongful death occur.
Wrongful death actions must normally be brought within two years after the death of the victim.However, if the death resulted from murder, aggravated manslaughter, or manslaughter and the defendant was convicted, found not guilty by reason of insanity, or found delinquent, then a wrongful death action may be brought at any time.
In addition to the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act, there is also a “Survivor’s Act” that allows the executor or administrator of a victim’s estate to obtain damages for the victim’s pain and suffering before death, if the death was caused by another person’s wrongful act, abuse, or neglect.Any award of damages is distributed to the victim’s heirs.
The same extension of the two-year statute of limitation applies to the Survivor’s Act.
If your family member has recently died and you believe you may have a wrongful death claim, contact our office for a free initial consultation.