New Jersey Wrongful Death Attorney
The sudden and tragic death of a loved one inflicts severe grief and emotional trauma on a family. The loss can also leave a family with significant financial strain, because of medical expenses and the loss of the loved one’s income. A death can all-too-easily lead to bankruptcy, foreclosure, and vehicle repossession. Knowing a loved one’s death resulted from someone else’s preventable, dangerous conduct adds another layer of pain. A New Jersey wrongful death attorney can help.
New Jersey law entitles eligible surviving family members to take legal action seeking compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one.
Money cannot turn back time or eliminate the grief you and your family are going through, but it can help alleviate financial difficulties and lend crucial support during a difficult time.
If you live in New Jersey and have tragically lost a family member because of another person’s careless, reckless, or intentionally-harmful actions, call the knowledgeable and compassionate New Jersey personal injury lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP at their Edison and Newark offices, for a free case evaluation.
Jacoby & Meyers, LLP’s Results in Wrongful Death Cases
The experienced wrongful death attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP have more than 40 years of experience representing families mourning the sudden, senseless loss of a loved one. The firm’s passion for professional excellence, dedication to seeking justice, and commitment to exceptional client service have led to the recovery of tens of millions of dollars in compensation for grieving clients.
Our recent results in wrongful death matters include:
- $5.7 million jury award for the family of an eight-year-old girl killed by a school bus after another child released the brake on the unattended bus.
- $5 million jury award for the family of a nursing home resident who died after the denial of medical care.
- $3.25 million settlement for the family of a 25-year-old student who died when she could not escape from her apartment during a fire.
- $2.4 million settlement for the family of a man who was killed when a truck crashed into the church van he was riding in.
- $299,000 settlement for the family of a man who died when he after being struck by a vehicle while walking on Route 4 in Paramus, New Jersey.
The above cases serve as examples of our firm’s results in wrongful death matters. They do not guarantee a specific outcome for any specific wrongful death lawsuit. Each case has underlying facts that can increase or decrease its value. Our clients can always rest assured, however, that the diligent attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP have the resources and experience to build the best case possible to help them through this difficult time.
Definition of Wrongful Death
Under New Jersey law, wrongful death is “the death of a person caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default.” For the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to exist, the deceased victim must have had the right to sue for damages, had the victim survived the injury. In New Jersey, a representative of the estate of the deceased must file the suit on behalf of family members who are eligible to receive compensation.
Wrongful Deaths Have Many Causes
Any situation that can lead to an injury can also lead to a fatality, which means that a wrongful death can occur anywhere under any circumstance. Some of the most common situations that lead to wrongful death claims include:
Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents cause more wrongful deaths across New Jersey and the nation than any other preventable incident. According to the New Jersey State Police, fatal crashes and accident-related fatalities have decreased in the last few years, and still, more than 500 people die in New Jersey traffic accidents each year. Many factors can lead to a car crash, but the vast majority involve preventable driving behaviors.
Negligent drivers who break traffic laws, drink and drive, use drugs and drive, and speed excessively put others with whom they share the road at risk for deadly accidents.
Almost 200 people die each year in New Jersey from bicycle and pedestrian accidents. Cyclists, walkers, and runners struck by motor vehicles almost always sustain catastrophic injuries. The vast majority of pedestrian knockdowns occur because of careless or reckless drivers. Motorists have a legal obligation to take special care to avoid harming pedestrians and bicyclists on the road; failing to meet that obligation can lead to financial liability for drivers who cause fatal injuries.
Full-time employees spend at least a third of each day at the workplace. Many New Jersey residents work overtime or have multiple jobs. With the population spending so much time at work, it follows that injury and death frequently occur in the workplace. Of course, some careers are more hazardous than others; construction workers have a higher chance of suffering a fatal injury on the job than almost any other occupation, for example.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reported almost 70 workplace fatalities in New Jersey in one year. Transportation-related accidents accounted for 25 of the deaths and 12 fatalities occurred because of a slip, trip, or fall. The remainder of workplace fatalities occurred as a result of exposure to toxic substances, fires, explosions, workplace violence, and accidents with equipment. Obtaining adequate compensation for a wrongful death that occurred on-the-job can get complicated. The experienced wrongful death lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP have the resources and experience to help.
We look to doctors and hospitals to diagnose, treat, and cure illness and disease. Unfortunately, some healthcare providers fail to deliver an adequate standard of care, and patients die as a result, such as in cases of:
- Misdiagnosis of illness or disease;
- Failure to diagnose a terminal illness or disease;
- Wrong site surgeries;
- Unnecessary surgeries;
- Surgical errors and leaving foreign objects inside a patient’s body;
- Failure to obtain a complete medical history from a patient;
- Improper or incomplete care after a surgery;
- Medication errors such as prescribing the wrong dosage or the wrong medicine; and
- Improper use of medical equipment leading to injury or death.
Property owners have obligations to take steps to keep visitors to their properties out of harm’s way. Preventable falls lead to many fatalities, particularly for older Garden State residents for whom falling can cause catastrophic injuries, including brain injuries, that prove fatal. Falling, however, constitutes just one of the many ways a property owner’s carelessness can lead to a tragic death.
Every year, New Jersey mourns the senseless loss of children in swimming pool accidents, often involving a child playing in a neighbor’s or community pool without proper supervision. No matter how a death occurs, if it happens outside of the victim’s home then legal liability for that death may fall to the property owner for failing to keep the victim safe from a dangerous property condition.
The categories above represent just a few of the ways a person can sustain a fatal injury because of someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentionally harmful actions. No matter what circumstances led to the tragic death of your loved one, the team at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP has the know-how to evaluate your legal options.
Eligibility for Filing a Wrongful Death Suit in New Jersey
If your deceased family member would have been eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit had he or she survived the injury which led to death, New Jersey law permits a personal representative of your loved one’s estate to take legal action for wrongful death damages. The representative must file the lawsuit on or before New Jersey’s two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims runs out. In most cases, the failure to take action within this two year window can lead to the loss of rights to compensation. However, claims relating to a wrongful death caused by an intentional criminal act (i.e., murder or manslaughter) do not have a statute of limitations.
Money recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit goes to the deceased’s estate. New Jersey’s laws governing how to distribute an estate when a person dies without a will dictate how those funds get distributed.
Every case has its own unique factors, but broadly speaking, proceeds get distributed to:
- The surviving spouse, when no parents or children exist.
- If children are involved, the surviving spouse receives $50,000 plus half of the estate, and the remainder is split among the children. If no children exist, the same distribution occurs with surviving parents.
- If the surviving children are from a previous relationship, the surviving spouse only gets 50 percent of the estate.
- If the deceased wasn’t married before death, any surviving children equally split the entire estate.
- Surviving parents receive the entire estate when the deceased wasn’t married or didn’t have children.
- If no spouse, children, or parents exist, the siblings of the deceased receive the entire estate.
These are complicated rules. Seek the advice of an experienced wrongful death attorney from Jacoby & Meyers, LLP to help you evaluate your rights when it comes to pursuing a wrongful death action and distributing its proceeds.
New Jersey Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions 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.
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.
Seeking Damages in a New Jersey For a Wrongful Death
New Jersey law differs from that of other states because it generally does not allow surviving family members to receive compensation for their own pain and suffering and emotional trauma relating to a wrongful death. Instead, wrongful death actions in New Jersey may only recover pecuniary losses suffered by family members as a result of a wrongful death (usually, the loss of the deceased loved one’s income), as well as “the hospital, medical and funeral expenses incurred for the deceased.”
New Jersey legislators periodically introduce legislation to expand the state’s wrongful death statutes to include pain and suffering and similar non-economic harms suffered by the victim’s family members, as recently as 2018. To date, however, those laws have not reached the governor’s desk for signature.
New Jersey law does, however, permit the representative of a deceased person’s estate to pursue a legal claim called a survival action, which is a lawsuit that asserts rights to compensation the deceased person would have had if that person had not died. A survival action may assert a claim to recover the deceased person’s own pain and suffering, if any, before death.
Experienced New Jersey wrongful death lawyers frequently file wrongful death actions and survival lawsuits together as a single case. Speak with an attorney from Jacoby & Meyers, LLP as soon as possible about the circumstances that led to your loved one’s passing to learn about your rights to compensation.
Get the Legal Help You Need from a New Jersey Wrongful Death Attorney
Wrongful death claims frequently involve legal and factual complexities that do not feature in other types of personal injury cases. Obtaining the compensation you and your family deserve for the senseless death of a loved one starts with retaining an attorney with the experience and resources to pursue justice on your and your deceased loved one’s behalf.
If you have lost a family member because of someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentionally-harmful actions, then you and your family deserve full and fair compensation for your losses. Contact the compassionate New Jersey wrongful death lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, online, through a live chat, or call us at (877) 505-2368 for a free, confidential, no-obligation evaluation of your legal options.
“I highly recommend hiring Jacoby & Meyers should you ever find yourself injured in an accident, and an individual or company needs to be held accountable for their negligence.” -C.J.
At Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, we understand the gravity of losing a loved one and know the emotional and financial difficulties you face at this sad moment. We are here to help you during this challenging time as you cope with your loss and begin moving forward. We have the experience and resources to investigate the event that led to the death of your loved one, so we can hold the at-fault parties accountable for their actions. We take personal injury cases, including wrongful death claims, on a contingent fee basis, collecting attorney fees only if we can secure compensation for you and your family.