What is a wrongful death?
A “wrongful death” is a death caused by the negligence or misconduct of another. Wrongful death claims fall under the scope of civil law and therefore do not deal with any criminal acts that may have been carried out by the responsible party. Any criminal charges will be filed by the government against the party responsible for the death of your loved one. A wrongful death suit is filed by an attorney in civil court to recover monetary damages for your loss.
Who can be held accountable?
Anyone who causes another’s death by an act of malice, negligence, or willful negligence can be held liable for the death of another. Wrongful death claims can be filed:
- Against an individual
- In the workplace
- Against a corporation
- Against public employees
- For death from defective ways
- Against the government
What has to be proven?
In order to achieve a successful wrongful death claim in Massachusetts you will have to provide several steps of proof:
- You must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased.
- You must show that the defendant acted negligently or with malice.
- You must show that the defendant’s act of negligence or malice was a direct cause of the victim’s death.
What damages can be claimed?
Wrongful death law allows for a variety of types of remuneration. The easiest damages to assess are economic damages. You may receive compensation for lost wages, medical costs, funeral and burial expenses, and other expenses related to your lawsuit or the passing of your loved one.
This includes your pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of companionship; the suffering of and psychological effect on your children; and any pre-death pain and anguish suffered by the deceased.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
Every state has different rules about who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In Massachusetts, the suit can only be filed by the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate. The lawsuit is placed on behalf of any surviving spouse, children, or parents. If the deceased has no such survivors, the victim’s siblings or cousins may then recover funds from the lawsuit through the victim’s estate.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
A wrongful death action must be filed within three (3) years of the date of death or within three years of the date the deceased’s executor or administrator knew, or should have known, the factual basis for the cause of action. While the courts do allow you and your family some time to grieve, take care of burial arrangements and rituals, and consider legal options, all filings have an expiration date. Determining factors include the type of wrongful action, the age of the victim, and whether or not a government entity was involved.
It’s understandable to take time to wrap your head and heart around what has happened to your loved one and what that means for you. However, evidence may be lost, overlooked, or cleaned up, memory may fade, and witnesses may move. If you wait too long, you risk not only missing your legal window of opportunity, but also valuable time in putting your case together.