Boston Wrongful Death Lawyer

Contact our Boston Wrongful Death Attorneys

Following the loss of a loved one, the thought of filing a lawsuit may seem overwhelming. At Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP, our personal injury lawyers are fully aware of the stress and emotion associated with these claims. We are sensitive to the needs of the surviving family members and provide support and guidance at every step in the process. We will diligently pursue all available means of compensation for those affected by a wrongful death.

The statute of limitations in Massachusetts limits the amount of time in which wrongful death claims may be filed. If you think you may have a wrongful death claim, call the dedicated professionals at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP immediately.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Boston?

According to the Massachusetts General Laws, only the executor or the deceased’s administrator can file a wrongful death claim. An administrator or executor has a certain set of responsibilities, such as paying the debts of the deceased and finalizing the affairs of his or her estate. Usually, the executor is a person named in the deceased’s will. If the deceased does not leave a will, the court will grant administrative privileges to another trusted individual.

While executors or administrators must file the claim themselves, the family of the deceased may still want to be involved with the suit and receive compensatory damages. Without a will, a Massachusetts court will also determine the future of the deceased’s estate through intestate succession rules. The court’s award compensation based on the next of kin, in the following order.

  • Spouse, if married at the time of death
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Other next of kin

The administrator or executor must file the lawsuit directly in civil court. Under Massachusetts law, all damages an executor recovers in a wrongful death claim go to the deceased’s estate. In addition, the administrator of the estate may file the wrongful death lawsuit if a criminal case involving the deceased person’s death is happening at the same time.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death occurs when another party’s negligence, carelessness, or reckless behavior caused a person’s death. Wrongful death lawsuits intend to recover compensatory damages for the loved ones of the deceased person, covering costs such as mental anguish and funeral expenses. Wrongful death lawsuits also intend to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.

These civil suits are not the same as criminal charges – an executor or administrator can file wrongful death claims in civil court, not criminal court. This individual can file a wrongful death lawsuit even if a criminal case is occurring at the same time. The deceased’s attorney does not need to prove that the at-fault party intended to harm the deceased when the accident occurred. Courts award monetary compensation in wrongful death claims, not criminal sentences.

Wrongful death claims can involve a number of scenarios, such as:

  • Defective and dangerous products
  • Car accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Construction site accidents
  • Dangerous work conditions
  • Slip and fall accidents

Massachusetts states that a person, company, or any group of people may be liable for the wrongful death of a person if the at-fault party commits any of the following breaches:

  • A breach of warranty
  • Negligence
  • Recklessness or wantonness

wrongful death funeral

Requirements For Wrongful Death Claim in Massachusetts

When determining if the case’s circumstances could have grounds for a wrongful death claim, the executor should consider if the deceased would have had grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit if he or she was alive. If the answer is yes, the executor can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Massachusetts civil court.

However, Massachusetts imposes several requirements for who can file a wrongful death claim:

  • An executor cannot file a wrongful death claim against an employer whose employee dies while working.
  • An executor cannot file a wrongful death claim against a railroad company if the deceased died in an accident while near or on the railroad tracks.
  • An executor cannot file a wrongful death claim against a streetcar company if the deceased died in an accident on or near the streetcar tracks. However, he or she may be able to file a claim if the tracks were crossing a road or sidewalk at the scene of the accident.

If any of the above situations apply to a wrongful death situation, the executor cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit in Massachusetts civil court. However, speaking with a wrongful death attorney can help the executor determine other pathways toward compensation. He or she may be able to file an insurance claim or enter a separate claims process run by a government agency.

Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

The types of damages that may be awarded in a wrongful death action are:

  • Loss of future net income
  • Loss of love and companionship
  • Pain and suffering
  • The lost expectation of inheritance
  • Loss of support

At Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP, we understand that wrongful death is a profoundly tragic event. The families of the decedent are left with extremely difficult emotional and financial losses. No amount of money can ever replace the love and support of a family member, but a wrongful death claim can assist in easing the financial burden imposed by the decedent’s loss.

What Is Compensation Like in Wrongful Death Cases?

Compensatory damages in wrongful death cases can provide significant financial relief to the survivors of the deceased. While no amount of money can truly compensate for the loss, the damages can help lift the burden of the immediate family members when it comes to final costs such as funeral expenses.

Under Massachusetts state law, families can recover the following forms of damages in wrongful death lawsuits:

  • Funeral and burial expenses: The family can recover reasonable compensation to cover the funeral and burial expenses of the deceased. Funeral expenses often become debts of the deceased’s estate and usually do not go directly to the beneficiaries, since courts award damages long after the funeral took place.
  • Loss of consortium: When a loved one passes away, families lose many social and emotional supports. Consortium damages intend to cover these losses. They refer to the loss of care, society, companionship, advice, comfort, protection, guidance, assistance, and counsel.
  • Loss of income: If the deceased provided income to family members, the lawsuit can claim lost wages. The courts determine the amount of these damages by calculating how much the deceased would have made if he or she survived. This form of compensation can provide significant relief to the family of the deceased, especially if he or she was the primary breadwinner.
  • Conscious pain and suffering: Families can recover pain and suffering on behalf of the deceased. Courts calculate these damages based on the experience of the deceased between the time of injury and the time of death. If the deceased died instantly and was not aware of impending death, the family may not receive these damages. However, if the deceased died instantly but suffered from fear of the impending death, the courts may award these damages.
  • Punitive damages: In situations where malicious conduct, gross negligence, or extreme negligence caused the death, courts may award punitive damages to the family. The purpose of these damages is to punish the defendant and discourage him or her from performing the same action again.

In some wrongful death cases, Massachusetts imposes a cap on the number of damages that a family can collect. In medical malpractice cases, families can only receive $500,000 in damages. In addition, courts only infrequently award punitive damages.

Unlike many other states, Massachusetts does not allow families to collect damages for medical expenses related to the accident before the deceased passed away. However, some cases may be eligible for a survival action as well as the wrongful death claim. This action allows the family to collect compensation for losses suffered by the deceased, such as final medical costs.

Boston Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims

Every wrongful death lawsuit filed in Massachusetts is subject to a statute of limitations defined by the state. Massachusetts requires that the executor or administrator of the estate file the wrongful death claim within three years of the date of death. If the executor does not file the claim within this time period, Massachusetts civil courts will likely not hear the case.

In some circumstances, an executor or administrator may not know that the accident that killed the deceased would be grounds for a wrongful death claim. In these cases, the courts require that the executor file the claim within three years of the date that he or she first knew or should have known that the accident could be grounds for a wrongful death claim.