Wrongful Death Lawyer, Salem MA
Wrongful death is when someone’s death is caused by the negligence of another party. Whether the cause was accidental or intentional, you may be entitled to compensation if you lost a family member due to wrongful death. Depending on the situation, you may be able to win a settlement for losing that person’s financial support and emotional comfort.
Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim is a special type of personal injury lawsuit where the estate of the deceased person files suit against the party responsible for the death. Typically, wrongful death claims are related to negligence or medical malpractice, but they can also include murder. As civil and criminal cases use different standards for proving guilt, it is possible for someone to be found innocent in a murder trial but still be held responsible in a civil suit for wrongful death.
Essentially, if the individual who died would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit, their representatives may be able to file a wrongful death suit. The following situations may constitute wrongful death:
- Death due to medical malpractice including failure to diagnose and carelessness
- Criminal actions
- The death of a child during a supervised activity such as an outing with their child care center
- Death during an activity such as skydiving or riding a rollercoaster
- A car or plane crash
Under Massachusetts law, you are not allowed to bring forward a wrongful death claim if the individual died at work. You also cannot bring suits against the railroad or streetcar companies if the individual died while on the tracks.
In order for a claim the be successful, the attorney has to establish that the cause of death was related to negligence or intent to harm. They may also have to prove that the surviving family members are suffering financial injury.
Filing a Wrongful Death Suit
In Massachusetts, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can bring forward a wrongful death suit. They can file the claim on behalf of the survivors who suffered damages as a result of the decedent’s death. These survivors are called the ‘real parties in interest’, and they may include spouses, children, parents, or other immediate family members. They may also include domestic or life partners or even distant family members depending on the nature of their relationship with the decedent.
Who May Be Sued?
Individuals, companies, government agencies, and other entities can be sued in wrongful death cases. For instance, in a vehicle accident involving a bad road and a drunk driver, the list of defendants could potentially include the following:
- The at-fault driver
- The driver’s employer if the accident occurred in a company vehicle or on company time
- The designer or builder of a bad road
- The government agent who didn’t offer adequate warnings with regard to road hazards
- The manufacturer, distributor, or even the installer of a faulty part of a vehicle
- The persons who sold, served, or gave alcohol to a drunk driver
- The owner of the establishment where the alcohol was served
As you can see, numerous people may bear responsibility. If you have lost a loved one due to wrongful death, your attorney can help you find the best avenues to explore.
In a wrongful death suit, you may be able to get compensation for a number of different damages including the following:
- Medical costs incurred before death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the deceased’s expected income
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of value of services the deceased would have provided
- Loss of care, guidance, and nurturing the deceased would have provided
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of consortium
Some cases also include a survival claim which refers to damages related to the pain and suffering caused to the person, before their death. To determine these damages, the jury may consider several elements including:
- The degree of consciousness before death
- The severity of pain
- The apprehension of coming death
- The duration of suffering
Generally, when damages are awarded, they belong to the estate and may be distributed according to the decedent’s will. Note that these are all compensatory damages, designed to compensate you for losses or damages you have incurred. Sometimes, there can also be punitive damages, which are designed to punish the negligent party for their behavior.
Generally, in Massachusetts, you have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death suit. However, there can be a few exceptions to this rule. In particular, if a minor is affected by a wrongful death, they may have the right to bring forward a lawsuit for a certain number of years after reaching the age of maturity.
At Tinti, Quinn, Grover & Frey, P.C., we have the experience you need when you’re trying to bring forward a wrongful death claim. To learn more and set up a free case evaluation, contact us today.