Edison Wrongful Death Lawyer
Any time a loved one dies, it can be difficult to process. This is especially true when the death is unexpected or could have been prevented. When a family member dies because of someone’s actions or negligence, it’s hard to navigate through the emotions that come with the loss. But at a time you should be grieving your loved one, you are also faced with the devastating reality of the financial impact of their death.
How do you process your emotions while staying afloat financially? While money won’t bring back a loved one, it can help you take the time to move through the grief process.
If you have experienced a recent loss and think you might have a wrongful death case, schedule an appointment with one of the Edison personal injury lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP. We treat all of our clients with compassion and empathy while we fight for the compensation they deserve.
The Legal Definition of Wrongful Death in New Jersey
Logically, it’s hard to distinguish what type of death qualifies as “wrongful.” For surviving family members, any unexpected death feels wrong. But the law specifically states that the death must be caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default. A person can only be found liable if they would have been legally liable for damages had the deceased party survived.
What Actions Can Lead to a Wrongful Death Suit?
The laws related to wrongful death and the surviving family members can be confusing. That is why we always recommend that you talk to a personal injury attorney if you think you might have a wrongful death case. The following cases can help you understand the common causes of wrongful death claims. If you are unsure whether you have a wrongful death case, our legal team would be glad to assist you. Contact our office to learn more. The following is a list of circumstances that may be classified as wrongful death.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
In 2017 there were 624 motor vehicle fatalities in New Jersey. Not every accident will have a wrongful death component. All drivers are expected to exercise care and caution when driving on the road. If the other driver was negligent or their actions intentional, they may hold financial responsibility. Insurance payments, investigations, or assignments of fault are separate from your wrongful death case.
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. They are also one of the leading causes of wrongful death suits. As patients, we expect our doctors to provide the highest standard of care. And for the most part, they do. But statistics show that errors or mistakes happen far too often. When a doctor’s actions directly lead to the death of a patient, they may be liable.
Malpractice may include:
- Surgical errors
- Missed or delayed diagnosis
- Poor or lack of prescription management
- Surgical field contamination
The National Safety Council reports that 5,147 people died on the job in 2017. That is an alarmingly high number. Employers are legally required to provide their employees with a safe place to work. Sadly, accidents and deaths at the workplace are on the rise. Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of workplace deaths, accounting for 40 percent of all workplace fatalities.
Rounding out the top five are:
- Slip and fall accidents (17 percent)
- Acts of violence (16 percent)
- Contact with objects/equipment (14 percent)
- Exposure to harmful chemicals or environments (10 percent)
Toxic Chemical Exposure
Dangerous chemicals exist all around us. They can be found in our homes, at our place of employment, and even at a place of business. The scary thing about toxic chemicals is that you may not be able to see or smell them; by the time someone realizes they have been exposed to a toxic chemical, it may be too late.
Acts of Violence
Intentional and unintentional acts of violence can lead to the death of someone else. Whether the person intentionally targeted your loved one or indirectly killed them, they may hold liability. It’s important to note that a person does not have to be found criminally responsible to be legally liable. The outcome of a criminal proceeding does not affect whether you can sue someone for wrongful death.
As consumers, we rely on manufacturers and product designers to do due diligence in researching and testing products. When a manufacturer doesn’t take precautions to make sure their product is safe, the consequences can be catastrophic. Product liability covers most goods and products. In one recent year, there were 58,496 product liability cases.
Items that can contribute to a product liability wrongful death suit include:
- Car tires
- Baby furniture
- Children’s toys
- Safety devices
Premises liability covers injuries and deaths that happen on someone else’s property. Generally, this will cover a public place of business, a private residence, or apartment complex. Property owners are responsible for making sure that their home, business, or land is safe and free of hazards. The degree to which they must ensure safety is specified in the state’s premises liability laws.
Instances where you may have a wrongful death case include:
- Swimming pool accidents
- Dog attacks
- Fall or crush accidents
How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?
To recover damages related to wrongful death, you must prove that the person you are filing a suit against had breached a duty of care against your loved one. For example, you cannot assert wrongful death against a doctor simply because there was a negative outcome. Proving that the doctor had a duty of caring is easy, but proving that their actions directly caused your loved one’s death can be more challenging. At Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, we use a variety of tools to prove wrongful death. This may include:
Even seemingly straightforward cases can be difficult to prove. Expert witnesses such as medical professionals, forensic experts, and engineers can help prove a direct connection between a person’s actions and cause of death. Vocational and financial experts can help prove actual or potential financial losses in your case.
Sometimes it can be hard to show who caused an accident. This is particularly true if one or both of the parties is unavailable to testify. In these cases or cases where there is a dispute over fault, an accident reconstruction can help determine the likely cause and trajectory of the accident.
Medical records can provide valuable insight regarding the manner of death. This is an important component of establishing liability. Our team will look at current medical records, as well as previous medical records to rule out any preexisting conditions.
Physical evidence is one of the most important pieces of building a case. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this evidence may or may not be easily accessible. If your loved one’s actions involved a crime, this evidence may be in police custody. A qualified personal injury attorney can help you determine the location of the evidence and use it to build your case.
Witnesses are important to any personal injury case. They can help fill in missing pieces and back up other evidence. It’s important to know what witnesses will say and how they will affect a case. At Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, our lawyers will thoroughly vet any potential witnesses before putting them on the stand or taking any depositions.
Qualifying Damages in a Wrongful Death Suit
In New Jersey, the laws regarding financial compensation after a wrongful death are different than many other states. Unlike other states, you can only recover pecuniary costs. To recover pain and suffering, you will need to file a separate lawsuit under the New Jersey Survival Act. Pecuniary losses cover only the actual financial loss resulting in your loved one’s death. Essentially, a wrongful death suit is to compensate the victim’s family for the death and their loss, while a claim made under the survival act allows the descendants to recover damages that the deceased would have been able to pursue if they were still alive. Pecuniary losses include:
Actual Out-of-Pocket Costs
The death of a loved one can leave you with unexpected bills. These are not costs you should have to cover. If your loved one required medical care as a direct result of their injury, the law allows you to recover these costs.
Typical costs include:
- Medical transport
- Doctors bills
- Hospital fees
In addition to outstanding medical debt, a wrongful death suit can help you recover all reasonable costs associated with your loved one’s funeral and burial.
Loss of Income
The loss of income can hurt surviving family members. This is particularly true if the deceased party was the primary or sole provider. A wrongful death suit will allow the victim’s family to pursue the loss of income between the date of injury and date of death and future lost wages. To calculate this amount, the court or insurance company will likely consider the age of your loved one at the time of death, their average income, and how many more years they likely would have spent working.
Loss of Services
The law recognizes that the services a person provides have value. While the tasks they provide may not bring in money, the loss of these services can have a significant effect on the person’s surviving family members. This is usually applicable for stay-at-home parents or persons who contribute significantly to the care and maintenance of the home.
Common services include:
- Lawn maintenance
- Home maintenance
- Child care
While a suit under the survival act is a separate legal action, it can be filed at the same time. The intricacy in filing both claims simultaneously is just one of the reasons you need to hire a personal injury attorney to represent your interests after the death of a loved one.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
The law only allows certain individuals to file a wrongful death suit after someone’s death. Generally, the persons eligible to take legal action include:
- The surviving spouse
- Dependant children
- Parents of the deceased
The law places a priority on who can make a claim and the share of damages they can recover. If there is a surviving spouse, they will have priority over any other party. If there is a spouse and children, a portion of the recovery will be directed to the spouse before the children are eligible for any financial compensation.
Returning to the subject of a wrongful death suit vs a one under survival act, only dependents of the deceased can bring a wrongful suit. The survival act includes the person’s estate in addition to their dependents.
New Jersey’s Statute of Limitations
The law allows you to seek financial compensation after a wrongful death. However, the suit must be filed within a given timeframe. This time frame is referred to as the statute of limitations. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death suit is two years. After this time you will likely recover any damages.
There is one significant exception to this rule. If the death was the result of murder, manslaughter, or aggravated manslaughter and the defendant was found guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity, there is no time limit to file a suit.
While two years may seem like a long time, it takes a lot of work to successfully build a wrongful death case. Because of this, you need to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible so they have enough time to present a solid case.
Call a Wrongful Death Lawyer You Can Trust. Call Jacoby & Meyers, LLP
Everyone processes death differently. After the passing of a loved one, the last thing you want to do is deal with financial and legal logistics. This is completely understandable.
At Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, our legal team will handle your case with care and compassion, respecting your needs, boundaries, and emotions. If you need help with your wrongful death case, we’re here to help. Contact us online or by phone at (877)-565-2993 for a free case evaluation.