New Jersey Wrongful Death Lawyer
From notoriously heavy traffic in many places to medical errors occurring at one of the more than 100 medical facilities around the state to defects in the products, food, and medications available to New Jersey residents, many accidents can take the lives of people in the Garden State.
While those injured in accidents caused by the negligence of others can seek compensation for their injury’s financial and psychological impacts, is there a similar process available for family members seeking compensation for the financial and psychological impacts of their loss? As it turns out, there is.
New Jersey’s wrongful death claims process is the avenue family members can use to seek compensation after a devastating loss. While this process is essential, it is often complicated and overwhelming for claimants. The New Jersey wrongful death lawyers from Jacoby & Meyers LLP can help you understand the process and provide information on the services our legal team can offer to assist you with your claim.
We have assisted families in New Jersey for fifty years, garnering results that include:
- A $5.7 million jury verdict for the family of an eight-year-old child who was struck by a runaway school bus and died after being pinned beneath the wheels.
- A $5 million jury verdict for the family of a 75-year-old nursing home resident who suffered severe and permanent brain damage after staff at the facility failed to monitor his blood sugar. He remained in a coma for six months before ultimately passing away due to the neglect he incurred at the nursing home.
- A $4 million jury verdict for the mother of twins who died shortly after birth due to a doctor’s failure to diagnose a condition with her cervix that resulted in premature delivery.
While we cannot guarantee results, contact a New Jersey personal injury lawyer Jacoby & Meyers LLP today to see what we can do for you.
New Jersey Wrongful Death Guide
- Common Causes of Wrongful Death in New Jersey
- Seeking Compensation for Your Losses Through a New Jersey Wrongful Death Claim
- New Jersey Wrongful Death FAQs
- Our Lawyers Can Assist You With Your New Jersey Wrongful Death Claim
Common Causes of Wrongful Death in New Jersey
According to New Jersey law, wrongful death 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.” When a wrongful death occurs, the claimant’s family members can seek compensation through the wrongful death claims process. Here is a look at some ways wrongful death commonly occurs in New Jersey.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
As noted by the New Jersey State Police, around motor vehicle accidents kill 700 people each year, including crashes involving cars, commercial trucks, taxis and rideshares, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Research indicates that New Jersey’s roadways are among the worst in the nation, with commuters finding themselves stuck in traffic for an average of 86 hours a year, often on roads with poor pavement quality alongside drivers who engage in risky driving behaviors such as texting while driving, drunk driving, and speeding.
There are more than 100 hospital facilities in New Jersey, including specialty hospitals and clinics, as well as hundreds of private physician practices and other locations where individuals seek medical care from licensed providers. All of these facilities must provide a standard of care—reasonable actions for a given circumstance or specialty that avoid harming patients.
Some of the common causes of wrongful death as a result of a healthcare provider’s negligence include:
- Diagnosis errors, such as failing to diagnose a medical condition or wrongly diagnosing the condition.
- Prescription errors, such as giving a patient the wrong type of medicine to treat their ailment or the wrong dosage.
- Birth injuries occurring as a result of an error during pregnancy, labor, birth, or in the hours following birth, such as failing to perform a C-section when medically indicated or failing to monitor the infant’s vital signs during labor or shortly after birth.
- Surgical errors, including improper administration of anesthesia, damaging neighboring organs during the surgery, leaving surgical implements in the body cavity after surgery, or operating on the wrong site or the wrong patient.
- Discharge errors, including premature discharge after a procedure or failure to provide home-care instructions or follow-up.
- Failure to inform a patient of the known risks of a procedure, if knowing those risks would have likely made the patient seek a different treatment option.
Nursing Home Abuse
New Jersey is home to more than 350 skilled nursing facilities—commonly known as nursing homes. Those facilities are home to more than 37,000 New Jersey residents. Federal and state nursing home reform laws grant several rights to residents of nursing homes, including the right to be free of physical and emotional abuse, restraint, and neglect.
Unfortunately, a well-known and significant staffing shortage at nursing homes across the country has left facilities understaffed, increasing the likelihood of residents dying as a result of issues such as:
- Lack of proper supervision and assistance to avoid falls, elopement (wandering away from the facility), and other issues common to elderly and vulnerable individuals.
- Medication errors, including providing the resident with too much, too little, or the wrong medication.
- Neglect of resident needs, including prevention of infection and dietary considerations.
- Failure to protect residents from incurring physical abuse at the hands of staff members or other residents.
Premises Liability Matters
Those who own, manage, or otherwise control property in New Jersey are required to perform regular inspections of the premises in search of hazards that can cause harm to guests. When such hazards are found, the property owner/possessor must promptly mitigate the hazard and provide prominent warnings to guests of known hazards that have yet to be mitigated.
Some of the common property hazards that can give rise to a wrongful death claim in New Jersey include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Elevator or escalator accidents
- Swimming pool injuries
- Fires or floods
- Failure to provide adequate security
- Dog bites
Dog bite claims are often considered a premises liability matter because it is the dog owner’s responsibility to protect others from becoming harmed by their pet. These claims are usually made against the owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s liability policy. Our New Jersey premises liability attorneys are here to assist you in these types of incidents.
New Jersey residents rely on thousands of products throughout any given day, including foods and medications, automobiles, electrical appliances, clothing, and even medical devices and equipment used in the provision of health care. Manufacturers and distributors of items sold to consumers in New Jersey have a legal obligation to ensure that their product is reasonably safe when used according to labeled instructions. U.S auto defects cause hundreds of recalls yearly, and more than 1,000 recalls per year involve defective medications.
Seeking Compensation for Your Losses Through a New Jersey Wrongful Death Claim
If you have lost the loved one due to an accident in New Jersey resulting from someone else’s negligence, you can seek compensation through the wrongful death claims process. This process generally involves filing a claim against a relevant liability insurance policy held by the at-fault party, such as an auto liability insurance policy or a homeowner’s or business insurance policy.
If at-fault party’s insurance provider fails to resolve the claim out-of-court for the claim’s value, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the death.
This two-year timeframe is known as the statute of limitations. It is essential to file your lawsuit before it expires, as claimants failing to meet the statute of limitations are generally barred from using the court process as they seek compensation for the loss of their loved one. Without the threat of going to court, most claimants will not obtain a settlement offer from the insurance company.
The Importance of Hiring an Attorney to Assist You With Your Claim
Many hesitate to hire an attorney to assist them with a legal matter because they fear they cannot afford one. However, an experienced wrongful death attorney can provide answers to your questions without obligation through a free case evaluation. Suppose you decide you wish to have the attorney help you through the process. In that case, the contingent fee billing method used by personal injury and wrongful death attorneys means that you can wait to pay for the attorney’s services until after receiving a positive outcome for your claim.
It cannot be stated enough: the process of seeking compensation through a wrongful death claim can become highly complicated.
A New Jersey wrongful death lawyer can:
- Determine liability, insurance resources, and establishing a value to your claim.
- Communicate with the at-fault provider’s insurance to negotiate a settlement on your behalf.
- File the claim in court within New Jersey’s two-year window for wrongful death claims to preserve your right to use the court process.
- Gather the evidence, witness testimony, and documentation needed to prove liability and justify the claim’s value.
- Provide litigation services if the insurance company fails to compensate the claim before the trial date arrives.
- Obtain the proceeds of your negotiated settlement or award.
The Elements You Must Prove to Show Liability in a New Jersey Wrongful Death Claim
Four key elements make up a wrongful death claim to prove that someone else was liable for causing the death.
Those elements are:
- The at-fault party had a duty in a given circumstance to take reasonable actions to avoid harming others.
- The duty was breached by reckless or careless actions taken by the at-fault party.
- These actions resulted in an accident resulting in killed.
- As a result of the death, the deceased’s family members incurred financial losses and psychological impacts.
The Type of Compensation You Can Seek
In New Jersey, a wrongful death claim can request compensation for:
- The deceased’s final medical costs and expenses relating to a funeral, burial, or cremation.
- Loss of support and services that the deceased provided to their loved ones.
- Loss of companionship, comfort, and society that was provided to the family by the deceased.
New Jersey Wrongful Death FAQs
The loss of a loved one often leaves surviving family members with substantial questions. The answers to your questions may depend on your specific claim, and the circumstances that led to the loss of your loved one. As always, contact an attorney to get more information about your specific case. Below, we cover some of the most common questions we receive regarding wrongful death claims.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
In general, you can file a wrongful death claim if:
- You lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. Did your loved one have grounds for a personal injury claim, had they lived through the accident? If so, you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim.
- You have a direct relationship to the deceased. Generally, the spouse of the deceased has the first right to file a wrongful death claim, followed by the deceased’s children and, finally, the deceased’s parents. If none of those individuals exist, another party with a close relationship to the deceased or the estate of the deceased may have grounds for a wrongful death claim.
What compensation can I receive when another party’s negligence led to the death of a loved one?
The financial compensation you can receive for the loss of a loved one may depend on several factors—most notably, the insurance policy that covers the entity legally liable for the accident. In New Jersey, for example, drivers carry a minimum of $15,000 in bodily injury liability protection per accident. This includes the payment offered for the death of a loved one in an auto accident. Even if your financial losses exceed that amount, these limits could determine the compensation you receive.
Consult an attorney to discuss your rights following the loss of a loved one, including how much compensation you deserve for your loss. Your claim may include:
Medical expenses accrued by the deceased before the death. Your loved one need not die immediately, at the scene of the accident, for you to have grounds for a wrongful death claim. You still have grounds for a wrongful death claim if your loved one lingered for some time, but ultimately succumbed to injuries caused by the accident.
In the meantime, your loved one may accumulate substantial medical expenses, including:
- Emergency care
- Durable medical equipment
- Treatments and procedures
Collect all medical bills related to the accident to help you better showcase your loved one’s expenses before death.
Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased. Many injuries cause substantial pain and suffering, especially for an individual who suffers severe enough injuries that they ultimately end in death. Discuss your loved one’s pain and suffering with the compassionate New Jersey wrongful death attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, to get a better idea of how it might affect your wrongful death claim.
Loss of income. Losing the primary breadwinner’s income can prove financially devastating for many families. That loss of income may make it difficult for you to pay your bills or take care of common financial obligations following the accident. Even if your loved one did not provide the primary source of income for the family, you may still struggle to get by without that income. Claiming the loss of that income as part of your wrongful death claim can make it easier to handle your financial obligations while you decide what to do next, whether that means a surviving spouse returning to school or seeking a new job.
Loss of services performed by the deceased. Each member of your family helps contribute to the overall stability and functionality of the family. Often, when a family does not work or contribute to the family financially, that family member contributes in other ways. Even if your family member contributes financially to the family, other contributions may add up to a more substantial financial loss.
When considering the services your family member provides, include:
- Childcare (it can cost an average of $9,200 each year, for example, to send a child to daycare in New Jersey)
- Care for elderly family members, especially care that keeps that individual out of a nursing home or assisted living facility
- Home cleaning services
- Home and yard maintenance
- Vehicle maintenance
- Cooking and preparing meals
Loss of companionship. Depending on your relationship to the deceased, their loss can impact you in profound ways. Surviving spouses, for example, lose the companionship provided by a loved one. Parents may lose the hopes and dreams they had for their children, while surviving children may lose the advice a parent might have provided. Contact an attorney to learn more about how that loss of companionship has the potential to affect your claim.
To whom can I file a wrongful death claim against?
You can file a wrongful death claim against any entity that caused or contributed to the death of your loved one. This includes loved ones who died due to:
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
- Auto accidents
- Construction accidents
- Premises liability accidents
- Product liability accidents
Keep in mind that multiple entities can contribute to your loved one’s loss. You may have grounds to file a wrongful death claim against each entity that caused or contributed to that accident, ultimately increasing the compensation you can receive. Consult an attorney to get a better idea of exactly who caused your loved one’s death and what compensation each one should offer you.
May I file a wrongful death claim if someone has already filed one?
If a member of your family has already filed a wrongful death claim against the entity liable for the loss of your loved one, you cannot file a second claim against that entity. Each family has grounds for only one wrongful death claim. If a family member accepts an offer you do not agree to, or if one family member accepts an offer and keeps that money instead of sharing it with the family, you will need to deal with that family member, not with the entity that caused the death of your loved one. An attorney can help if you have questions about the legality of a wrongful death claim.
The police cleared the party that caused my loved one’s death of all charges. Do I still have grounds for a wrongful death claim?
Criminal charges following an accident do not impact the civil consequences of that accident. You have grounds for a wrongful death claim even if the investigation cleared the liable party of all criminal charges.
To file a wrongful death claim, your attorney will need to prove:
- The liable entity bore a duty of care to your loved one at the time of the accident or incident. In the case of an auto accident, this could include any driver that caused an accident. In a nursing home neglect case, it could include the facility, any providers in the facility, and any specific caregiver you hired to look after your loved one.
- The liable entity failed to maintain that duty of care to your loved one, causing an accident, illness, or injury to your loved one. In an auto accident, for example, the liable driver might have driven distracted or simply failed to yield right of way.
- The liable entity’s neglect led to your loved one’s death.
If the liable entity faces criminal charges, as in a nursing home neglect case where the facility clearly neglected or failed to pay proper attention to its residents, those criminal charges can help prove the grounds for your civil wrongful death claim. The fact that the liable entity faces no criminal charges for that death, however, does not automatically mean that you do not have grounds for a wrongful death claim. Consult an attorney to learn more about your rights.
When should I contact an attorney? Do I have a deadline to file a wrongful death claim?
The New Jersey statute of limitations may limit the time you have to file a wrongful death claim for the loss of a loved one. An attorney can help you identify any potential exceptions to the statute of limitations or other factors that may limit your claim, even if significant time has passed since your loved one’s death.
Ideally, you should contact an attorney as soon after the loss of your loved one as possible. While your life may get busy fast following the loss of a loved one and you may have other complications that make it difficult for you to get in touch with a lawyer, contacting Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, soon after that loss can make it much easier to seek the compensation you deserve. When you contact a wrongful death lawyer soon after the accident, that attorney can seek evidence regarding your loved one’s accident, including hunting down video footage, witness statements, and expert witness testimony concerning your loved one’s accident. Consulting an attorney soon after the accident can also help you get the compensation you need in your hands sooner.
How long does it take to get compensation for a wrongful death claim in New Jersey?
The length of time it will take to file your wrongful death claim and receive compensation will depend on several factors. Consult us to get a better idea of how long your specific claim may take.
- How much money did you ask for? Soon after the accident, you will work with your attorney to put together a demand package that includes the funds you expect in compensation for the loss of your loved one. Many insurance companies will fight harder to decrease the compensation you receive if you ask for a substantial amount of money. A smaller claim may get paid out faster.
- How much do you want to negotiate? Many surviving family members settle accident claims very quickly: they accept an early settlement offer from the liable entity very early in the negotiation process. Others, however, want to increase the compensation they receive for their loss as much as possible. The more you insist on negotiating, the longer it can take to settle your claim.
- Who caused the accident that resulted in the loss of your loved one’s life? Some factors can complicate your ability to determine who caused the accident or how much fault each party bears, which can make it take longer to reach an agreement.
The insurance company that covers the liable entity contacted me soon after my loved one’s death and made a settlement offer. Should I take it?
Always consult the New Jersey wrongful death lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, before accepting any settlement offer made by an insurance company or other liable entity after the loss of a loved one. Many insurance companies seek to reduce their financial liability, rather than focusing on providing you with the funds the policy should provide in the event of an accidental death. Many times, insurance adjusters will give you a low initial settlement offer that fails to reflect the funds you deserve for the loss of your loved one. If you accept that offer, it may prevent you from seeking future financial compensation for that loss, ultimately preventing you from getting the full funds you need and deserve for the loss of a loved one.
How does a wrongful death claim work when multiple people deserve compensation for a single loss?
Often, several people may share the same level of legal entitlement to compensation for the loss of a loved one: for example, if a woman with no spouse and five children dies, each of those five children may have the same grounds for compensation for that loss. Each of those children has the same right to file a wrongful death claim or accept an offer on behalf of the family, unless the woman’s will clearly designates which child has the legal responsibility for executing the estate and carrying out those actions.
Claims proceed best when the family and other beneficiaries agree to cooperate—and most of the time, the surviving family members will work together to file a wrongful death claim and decide between them how to handle dividing that compensation. This may include fair distribution of funds to minor children.
Our Lawyers Can Assist You With Your New Jersey Wrongful Death Claim
Losing a loved one is one of the most devastating situations a family can endure. In addition to the emotional grief of the loss, if there were family members dependent on the financial support of the deceased, they could find themselves unable to make ends meet. While compensation will never bring back the many things someone provided to their family members in life, it can help ease the financial and psychological burden for their loved ones while also providing the opportunity to hold the at-fault party accountable for the loss.
Let a New Jersey wrongful death lawyer from Jacoby & Meyers LLP help you make sense of the wrongful death claims process. For your free case evaluation, contact us online or call (973) 643-2707. Jacoby & Meyers LLP is here to help.