The heartbreak of a loved one’s death is compounded by the logistical and financial stresses of providing a burial according to the deceased’s wishes, paying off residual bills, and coping with the loss of an income. In cases where a loved one’s death was caused by another’s actions, this can be especially emotionally difficult—but the law does allow for a remedy to the financial stress caused by a wrongful death.
In Massachusetts, a wrongful death is one caused by another party through
- breach of warranty
- conduct which is “wanton and reckless”
Excluded explicitly from these criteria are workplace deaths and deaths on or near railroads and streetcar tracks. In general, the executor and survivors of the decedent can file a wrongful death suit in those cases in which the departed, had he or she lived, could have filed a personal injury suit.
However, under the “wanton and reckless” stipulation, a wrongful death suit may be filed following a criminal trial, whether or not the defendant is found criminally responsible. Famously, this was the case when the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman won damages against OJ Simpson when a court found him civilly liable for their deaths, even though he had been cleared of criminal responsibility regarding their murders.
In filing a wrongful death suit, survivors can seek financial compensation for burial expenses within reason, counseling and other comfort expenses for the bereaved, and the lost income of the decedent. Punitive damages are only available in cases where the death was caused by gross negligence or the aforementioned “wanton and reckless” conduct.
The statute of limitations for filing the suit is three years from the date of death, or from the executor of the estate becoming aware there was a basis for a wrongful death suit.
If you have lost a loved one too soon due to someone else’s actions, you may be feeling lost. Our office wants to help you get what you and your family deserve during this difficult time. We can help tabulate the financial burden of your loved one’s death, find where the other party failed to act appropriately, and guide you through the court process. Call us today for a free consultation.