Nothing can make up for the loss of a loved one, but compensation from a wrongful death claim can provide the financial support your family needs to prevent your loved one’s death from turning into a financial catastrophe.
If you lost a loved one in the state of Massachusetts and believe you have grounds for a lawsuit, there are several things you need to know about wrongful death lawsuits.
What is Wrongful Death?
Under Massachusetts state law, wrongful death occurs when a person dies as a result of another party’s negligence, and the deceased individual would have been able to recover damages for his personal injuries if he had survived. Negligence includes willful, wanton or reckless actions or breach of warranty.
If the claimant can prove that the other party’s negligence caused the person to die, the other party will be liable for damages.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Boston?
State law requires wrongful death lawsuits to be filed by the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate. The executor or administrator is the one responsible for carrying out the instructions from the deceased individual’s will, including settling the person’s final debts and closing out the estate.
If there was no will, or the will did not name an executor or administrator, the surviving family members can agree upon a trustworthy individual to file a wrongful death claim. This could include a family member or even an attorney. If the family wants to, it can appoint two people to serve as co-executors or co-administrators.
Are There Restrictions on Who You Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
Massachusetts state law does not allow for wrongful death claims against the following entities:
- Employers for on-the-job deaths
- Railroads, if the decedent was killed in an accident on or near train tracks
- A streetcar company if the decedent was killed due to an accident in which he or she was on or near the tracks, where the tracks do not cross the sidewalk or road
What Forms of Compensation are Available?
If your claim is successful, the defendant will be liable for a variety of damages, such as reasonable funeral and burial expenses and fair monetary value for the following:
- Loss of the deceased’s reasonably expected net income
- Loss of services
- Loss of care
- Loss of protection
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of comfort, guidance, counsel and advice
The defendant will also be liable for punitive damages of no less than $5,000, if the court finds that the death was caused by gross or extreme negligence. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
Who are the Beneficiaries in a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Boston, beneficiaries to a wrongful death claim can be the spouse of the decedent, the decedent’s children or their next of kin, if unmarried. No other relatives have the right to recover damages.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Statutes of limitations set deadlines for filing different types of legal claims. Once a statute expires, you are prohibited from filing the type of claim governed by that statute.
Massachusetts law says that the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is three years from the date of death or from the time the executor or administrator knew, or should have known, he or she could take legal action (or that the death was caused by another’s negligence).
The second part of the statute applies to situations where the executor or administrator did not realize there were grounds for a wrongful death claim at the time the individual died. It may have taken time for evidence or other factors about the individual’s death to come to light.
However, if a claim is filed more than three years after death, the executor will have to prove he or she is not filing a claim more than three years after he or she knew there were grounds for a lawsuit.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is extremely difficult. The Boston personal injury lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC are committed to doing our part to help you during this difficult time.
We will aggressively pursue all of the compensation you deserve, either through an out-of-court settlement or a courtroom trial.