Dealing with the death of someone close to you is among the most heartbreaking moments anyone can go through in life. If you believe that your loved one's death was caused by the negligent or wrongful actions of someone else, you may be entitled to pursue fair compensation by filing a wrongful death claim against the liable party.
At Maran & Maran PC, I'm dedicated to providing experienced legal guidance, support, and assistance to you and your family during such a difficult period. As an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney, I can review and investigate all the surrounding details of your case, gather the necessary evidence and documentation, and help you file a wrongful death action. I will fight compassionately to protect your rights and attempt to seek fair financial compensation to cover funeral costs, burial expenses, loss of consortium, lost income and benefits, and outstanding medical expenses.
My firm, Maran & Maran PC, proudly serves wrongful death victims and their surviving loved ones in Newark and the surrounding communities across New Jersey, including Essex County, Sussex County, Passaic County, and Warren County.
Losing a family member can be difficult and emotional. According to New Jersey Statute Section 2A:31-1, a "wrongful death" is defined as a death "caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default." The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to hold the responsible party liable for a preventable accident that resulted in the death of another person and compensate the victim's family.
No amount of financial compensation can bring back the deceased person or fill the void they left behind. However, filing a wrongful death claim can provide the surviving family members the much-needed financial boost to cover lost wages and benefits, funeral expenses, burial costs, and outstanding medical bills incurred before the victim's death.
Through a wrongful death action, the decedent's family can hold the responsible party accountable, pursue deserved compensation, and ensure that such a thing doesn't happen to another person or family. Likewise, the decedent's family members can also salvage financial stability following their loved one's untimely death.
"When the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default, such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the person injured to maintain an action for damages resulting from the injury, the person who would have been liable in damages for the injury if death had not ensued shall be liable in an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured and although the death was caused under the circumstances amounting in law to a crime."
In order to establish a wrongful death claim in New Jersey, the claimant must prove the following elements:
- The defendant owed a legal duty of care to the deceased
- There was a breach in the duty of care
- A death occurred
- The defendant's wrongful actions resulted in the victim's death
- The decedent's surviving loved ones suffered actual damages due to the victim's death
In New Jersey, only the personal representative of the estate (executor) is allowed to bring a wrongful death claim. However, if the person died without choosing a personal representative, the court may appoint a person to act as an administrator. Once appointed, the administrator may bring a wrongful death action (New Jersey Statute Section 2A:31-2).
Under New Jersey laws, the statute of limitations requires that a wrongful death action must be commenced within two years from the date of the death.
Damages in a New Jersey wrongful death case are awarded to compensate the surviving family members and actual dependents of the decedent. These damages can include:
- Medical bills incurred before the victim's death
- Loss of financial support, based on the compensation the deceased could reasonably have been expected to earn if he or she had lived
- Loss of companionship, advice, guidance, and care
- Funeral or burial expenses
- Loss of medical benefits or pension
- Lost wages and benefits
- The value of household services
Loss of companionship, advice, guidance, and care has a monetary value which can be calculated. Often the largest part of this claim is companionship; for example the spouse of the decedent would have continued to spend, for example 28 hours a week with his or her deceased spouse. Therefore, the court has allowed us to calculate that loss for the dependent by multiplying the total lost hours of companionship per year, times the going rate to hire a companion, times the shorter of the two life expectancies. While no one would actually hire that companion this approach to the calculation is useful in calculating the value of that portion of the actual dependent's losses. Usually an Economist is engaged to assist with these evaluations.
In the Wrongful Death Statue, N.J.S.A. 2A:31-4 Persons Entitled to Amount Recovered, explains that the distribution of the wrongful death proceeds flow to the heirs surviving who were actually dependent on the decedent. These damages have been explained in Green v. Bitner, 85 NJ 1 (1990).
While the personal representative of the estate is the only one who may bring a wrongful death claim in New Jersey, that person is not entitled to recover based upon that representation of the estate alone; he or she must also be an actual dependent of the deceased. The persons entitled to a monetary award must be actual dependents of the decedent and they will share in the recovery in proportion to their own losses.
Only persons who can recover under the intestacy statute are permitted to recover, and they must be actual dependents of the deceased loved one, before they can recover in the lawsuit. This means that persons who would be entitled to recover are persons who have received money from the decedent in the past, such as an allowance or tuition for school or even a promise to pay for a wedding; these are only examples of the ways the decedent had or planned to provide monetary support to his dependents. This loss of expected monetary contributions to the dependent are not the only way the dependent can recover, we must also evaluate the dependents loss of companionship, advice and guidance.
Essentially while the injured person is alive and suffers conscious pain and suffering the recovery for this portion of the claim is distributed through the Estate. This distribution would occur either through the will if there is one, or through the intestacy statute if there is not. From the moment of death forward the wrongful death act controls and that portion of the recovery is distributed to the actual dependents and does not pass through the estate.
The death of a family member is usually overwhelming and can result in devastating long-term consequences to your physical, mental, and financial well-being. However, you don't have to go through the challenges and grief alone. Hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney is crucial to help protect your rights and seek rightful compensation for your loss.
At Maran & Maran PC, I have the experience and resources to assist, guide, and represent clients in their personal injury and wrongful death claims. As your attorney, I can:
- Work to hold the responsible parties liable
- Review all the facts of your case thoroughly
- Conduct an in-depth, private investigation
- Gather required evidence and necessary documentation
- Help establish that the defendant's wrongful actions caused the death
- Determine the possible value of your claim
- Handle all communication and negotiations with the insurance company
- Negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance provider on your behalf
- File a wrongful death lawsuit or take additional legal action, if required
I will fight vigorously on your behalf to protect your legal rights and help you recover rightful compensation for your loss. Having me on your side can make a big difference in your wrongful death lawsuit.
If you have lost a spouse, parent, child, or close relative to another person's wrongful actions, you may hold the liable party accountable. Contact my firm - Maran & Maran PC - today to schedule a one-on-one case assessment. My firm proudly serves clients in Newark and throughout Northern New Jersey. Call me today for help!