A wrongful death claim is a civil claim filed in the NJ Superior Court for monetary damages arising out of the “wrongful death” of a person. New Jersey defines a “wrongful death” as the death of a person caused by “a wrongful act, neglect, or default, such as would, if the death had not ensued, have entitled the person injured to maintain an action for damages resulting from the injuries.” N.J.S.A. 2A:31-1.
Essentially, what that means, is that a wrongful death claim can be understood as a personal injury claim when the injured person is no longer available to bring his own claim for damages, therefore another party must bring a claim on the decedent’s behalf.
Wrongful death claims are filed in the Civil Court, thus the claimant must prove the elements of his case “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This is a much lower standard than that required by the Criminal Courts, in which the Prosecution must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt,” that the defendant committed the crime.
a Wrongful death claim can stem from a large variety of fatal incidents, including car accidents, medical malpractice, and even an intentional killing. A representative of the victim’s estate would be required file the wrongful death claim on behalf of survivors who had a relationship with victim. Each state has its own laws regarding who exactly can file a wrongful death claim, however all states have agreed that the spouse of a decedent and parents of a deceased minor can file a claim.
To hold the defendant (person who acted negligent) liable, the plaintiff (person(s) suing through the estate of the deceased) must prove that the defendant’s act, or failure to act, was the proximate cause of the victim’s death. The act must have caused a direct series of events leading to the victim’s death. The plaintiff has to meet the same burden of proof the victim would have had to meet if they were alive.
Typical damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim can include:
- The victim’s pre-death pain and suffering (survival claim)
- Medical costs from any pre-death injuries
- Loss of the victim’s expected income
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of inheritance as a result of death
- Loss of love, companionship, and care the victim would have offered
For more information on a wrongful death cause of action, click the link below to be directed to the NJ Superior Court Jury Charge for a Wrongful Death lawsuit:
If you believe you have a viable wrongful death claim, the experienced lawyers at Hyberg, White & Mann can evaluate your claim and get you started in the right direction. Please call (609) 407-1000 for more information or to schedule a free consultation.
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