Following the loss of a loved one, the thought of filing a lawsuit may seem overwhelming. At Sweeney Merrigan Law, 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 immediately.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
The types of damages that may be awarded in a wrongful death action are:
At Sweeney Merrigan Law, 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.
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:
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.
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.