New Jersey Wrongful Death Claims
New Jersey law provides families who have lost a loved to an untimely death a way to seek compensation for their loss. The New Jersey Wrongful Death Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:31-4, and Survival Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:31-1, provide the legal framework for what is commonly known as a “Wrongful Death” lawsuit. These two statutes, enacted by the legislature, provide the surviving heirs of a deceased person the ability to pursue a variety of economic and non-economic damages from the negligent parties who caused the untimely death. Each statute sets forth a distinctly different type of claim, and both are discussed herein.
Under the Wrongful Death Act, the estate of a deceased individual may pursue compensation for the economic losses they have sustained, and will sustain in the future, as a result of the wrongful death. These damages are strictly pecuniary in nature and may include reimbursement of medical and funeral expenses, as well as the value of lost support, services, guidance and prospective inheritance from the decedent. Damages for emotional distress to the heirs of the decedent are not permitted under the Wrongful Death Act, though they may be separately available if the negligent death was witnessed by a family member.
Calculation of economic damages under the Wrongful Death Act is based, in part, on the deceased individual’s age, life expectancy, earnings capacity and character. Because every individual’s circumstances and background are different, available economic damages will differ in every case. Typically, the opinion of an expert economist is required in order to accurately calculate and support a claim for economic damages under the Wrongful Death Act.
The Survival Act, on the other hand, allows the estate of a deceased person to pursue non-economic damages for the conscious pain and suffering experienced by the decedent from the time immediately following the catastrophic accident, until death. In determining the value of these damages, consideration must be given to a number of factors, including the degree of consciousness of the decedent following the accident, the severity and duration of the pain and suffering, and the degree of apprehension of impending death. The value of non-economic damages available under the Survival Act will differ in every case.
The Wrongful Death Act and Survival Act provide the legal framework for New Jersey wrongful death lawsuits, and must be given careful consideration when preparing a case. Additional factors to be considered are the applicable statute of limitations, determining who will represent the estate in the lawsuit, the proper jurisdiction and venue, proving liability of the defendants, demonstrating damages, allocating the proceeds of any settlement or judgment, and more. It is thus advisable that families of deceased individuals contact an experienced New Jersey Wrongful Death Lawyer if they have lost a loved one due to the negligent acts or omissions of others.
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, we are available to discuss your case. Contact The Reinartz Law Firm to speak with a lawyer and begin the process of seeking justice.