South Brunswick Wrongful Death Attorneys
Proudly serving all of New Jersey
There is no way to prepare for death, not the emotional trauma or the financial weight. Figuring out how to rebuild your life with a growing mountain of debt can be draining. For stay-at-home parents, in particular, this can be one of the most difficult times in your life. While no amount of money can make up for the loss that you and your family have suffered, there is no reason you should be burdened further by bills. Pursing damages may not erase the pain you are dealing with, but it can help put you on a better path.
When the South Brunswick personal injury attorneys at Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. take on a wrongful death case, our top priority is shouldering the burden of the case, so you do not have to. We will handle every aspect of your case, from the investigation to contending with insurance companies, in order to give you the chance to breathe and recover after your loss. Call us at (609) 240-0040 to speak to an empathetic law firm about the next steps you can take.
When most people think of taking someone to court for a death, it’s often in association with a serious crime like homicide. If the death was the result of intentional or malicious criminal actions, the victim’s family can pursue punitive damages, based on New Jersey Statute 2A:15-5.9. Punitive damages are capped at $350,000 and are designed to punish a defendant, but civil damages will include proper compensation for your losses.
Wrongful deaths due to negligent actions, such as a fatal car accident, fall under New Jersey’s civil courts. Cases such as these are subject to two specific laws: Wrongful Death Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:31-4) and Survival Act (N.J.S.A 2A:15-3). The Wrongful Death Act applies to the victim’s family members, allowing spouses, children, siblings, and parents to pursue compensation to cover any bills related to the victim’s death, such as funeral expenses, lost wages that contributed to their household, and medical bills leading up to their death.
The Survival Act provides similar compensation but is filed by the victim’s estate on behalf of their heirs. The key difference is that the Survival Act allows the estate to pursue damages for the victim’s pain and suffering leading up to their death, rather than focusing specifically on financial losses.
Before filing a wrongful death claim, it is important to discuss the matter with an attorney who has experience with such cases. We can perform a thorough review of your case to determine what damages you can pursue and how New Jersey law applies to your claim.
In New Jersey, family members, heirs, and estate administrators can pursue damages in a wrongful death case. Generally, what can be recovered is similar to what a personal injury claim would encompass if the victim had survived, but with a few limitations. When you pursue a wrongful death claim, you may recover:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills leading up to the victim’s death
- Lost wages that the victim would have contributed to the household or estate
- Pain and suffering that the victim experienced leading up to their death
- Loss of consortium on behalf of the legally married spouse
- Loss of guidance on behalf of dependent children, including minors and adult descendants who relied on the deceased financially
However, New Jersey statutes do not allow surviving family members to sue for “emotional distress” or their own pain and suffering. The focus is primarily on helping you recover financially so that you may be free to recovering emotionally.
Wrongful death claims are won in the same manner as a personal injury claim. This requires that the plaintiff – the victim’s family – and their attorney prove that the defendant caused the death of a loved one through negligent actions. Proving this requires three elements:
- Duty of Care: The defendant was required to provide a level of care towards the victim. This can include obeying all traffic laws when driving, making sure a property is free of hazards, or ensuring a product is not defective or harmful when used properly.
- Breach of Duty: Once a duty of care has been established, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant willfully or negligently breached that duty, such as by driving over the speed limit or failing to fix a broken handrail on a staircase.
- Causation: Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s negligent actions result in the death of the victim.
As your attorney builds your case, they will carefully review every detail to ensure that each element occurred. This will require various types of evidence that will depend on the specifics of your case. For example, attorneys may use police reports and accident reconstructions to demonstrate that a truck driver caused a pile-up that resulted in your loved one’s death. Or, if the deceased passed away because a property owner didn’t fix a faulty wire, your attorney may use unfulfilled maintenance requests or surveillance footage to demonstrate negligence.
While no one wishes to rush into a lawsuit after they have lost a loved one, New Jersey does have strict deadlines for filing claims. Like personal injury claims, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the victim’s death. Starting the process early will allow your attorney to perform a thorough investigation and build a strong case, while also allowing you to receive compensation faster than if you delay.
The legal team at Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. understands that this is a trying time for you. Our South Brunswick wrongful death attorneys want to give each client the proper time they need to grieve and move past a tragic event. If you bring your case to us, we will focus all of our efforts on removing this stress from your life. We provide each client with the knowledge and experience of a large law firm, while also ensuring they receive compassionate, personalized legal advice through the claim’s process. To learn more about your options after a loved one has passed away due to negligent actions, contact us at (609) 240-0040 to schedule a free consultation.
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