It’s heartbreaking to lose someone you love, but this loss can be more nerve-wracking and painful when your loved one’s death was directly caused by someone’s carelessness and could’ve been prevented. Suppose another party’s negligence has led to your loved one’s death, whether in a truck accident, car accident, or an incident of product liability in Massachusetts. In that case, you may be eligible to lodge a wrongful death lawsuit.
At The Law Office of Robert C. Shea, P.C., our Brockton Injury Lawyers understand that no amount of financial compensation can make up for the loss of a loved one. But Massachusetts law recognizes that it is unfair for grieving surviving family members to be forced to shoulder the financial implications of wrongful death when neither they nor the decedent was at fault. To that end, the Massachusetts Wrongful Death Act allows the estate executor or administrator to bring a lawsuit for financial compensation on behalf of surviving family members.
A Brockton wrongful death lawyer at The Law Office of Robert C. Shea, P.C. will provide compassionate legal assistance to families throughout Massachusetts. We can help you fight to secure the much-needed and deserved financial compensation and provide future security. Backed by years of experience, a proven track record of successfully resolved wrongful death cases, our firm has the compassion, skill, experience, resources, and legal know-how to fight for you.
Call 508-506-5681 or fill out our email form to request a free consultation today with a wrongful death lawyer.
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How Is Wrongful Death Defined In The State Of Massachusetts?
Massachusetts law defines wrongful death as the death of an individual caused by negligence, wrongful act, or unlawful violence on the part of another person or entity.
Wrongful death lawsuits in Massachusetts can be based on:
- Breach of warranty
- Negligence on the part of a common carrier
- Willful, reckless, and wanton conduct
A wrongful death claim or lawsuit also referred to as a wrongful death action, enables an estate administrator to recover monetary compensation – such as funeral expenses and loss of income – associated with the decedent’s death. These lawsuits are supposed to help the victim’s family recover financial compensation and hold the negligent party accountable.
Who Is Qualified To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In Massachusetts?
Under Massachusetts wrongful death statute, only the estate administrator or executor can bring a wrongful death action. Typically, the estate executor is named in the decedent’s will. If the deceased did not have a will, Massachusetts civil courts could appoint someone to serve as administrator and file for financial compensation on behalf of surviving family members.
Massachusetts law recognizes that the decedent’s estate and family are the parties most financially harmed by a wrongful death. To this end, according to Massachusetts law, beneficiaries in the decedent’s will, or if there’s no will, family members closest to the decedent and dependent on the deceased (financially or emotionally), can pursue compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. These include:
- A surviving spouse
- The decedent’s surviving minor children
- The decedent’s surviving adult children who were dependent on the decedent for financial support
- The decedent’s parents
- The decedent’s siblings
- Other surviving relatives if the deceased had no immediate family
If you’ve lost a family member in wrongful death and are not sure if you can file a wrongful death claim, you don’t have to delay taking action. A Brockton wrongful death lawyer at The Law Office of Robert C. Shea, P.C. can provide the legal advice you need to hold the at-fault party accountable for the death of your loved one.
What Types Of Damages Are Recoverable?
Recoverable damages for a wrongful death action in Massachusetts are a little different than those available for personal injury lawsuits. Massachusetts wrongful death statute specifically outlines that the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate are entitled to recover fair monetary compensation for:
Lost Expected Income
The beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate may recover compensation for “reasonably expected net income.” The amount awarded for lost income will depend on many factors such as the decedent’s future prospects, age, and life expectancy.
Loss Of Consortium
Massachusetts does award compensation for loss of consortium for the decedent’s child, loss of spousal companionship, etc.
Funeral & Burial Expenses
The decedent’s estate is entitled to recover compensation for reasonable funeral expenses. It’s important to note that the law relating to recovery of funeral expenses refers to the estate and not the beneficiaries because funeral expenses are categorized as debts of the decedent’s estate. Note that these can be recovered through the decedent’s PIP insurance and is much quicker.
Conscious Pain And Suffering
Massachusetts law permits recovery of compensation for the decedent’s conscious pain and suffering – recovery is made on behalf of the estate administrator but divided among beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will or if there’s no will, the law of intestate succession.
May be awarded if the death in question was caused by willful, malicious, reckless, or wanton conduct or by gross negligence.
Can The Decedent’s Surviving Family Members File For Punitive Damages?
Yes, punitive damages may be available if your loved one’s death happened as a result of circumstances caused by the defendant’s willful, wanton, malicious, or reckless conduct. Punitive damages are provided to the decedent’s estate on behalf of surviving beneficiaries and are intended to punish the defendant, not to make the estate whole. For example, punitive damages may be available in a DUI truck accident.
When awarding punitive damages for wrongful death cases, the negligence of the decedent is not taken into account.
An experienced Brockton wrongful death attorney can explain whether punitive damages are an option for your case.
How Is Negligence Proved In A Massachusetts Wrongful Death Case?
You might not know all the details surrounding the accident that caused the death of your loved one. We can help. The wrongful death lawyers At The Law Office of Robert C. Shea, P.C. are experienced in handling these types of lawsuits and will investigate the identity of liable parties and gather crucial evidence to prove negligence.
Most fatal accidents – no matter the setting – are caused by negligence or failure to exercise reasonable care. To bring a wrongful death claim based on negligence, you must prove the following four elements:
- Duty: The defendant owed the decedent a duty to exercise reasonable care;
- Breach: The defendant failed to exercise reasonable care (a breach);
- Damage: The decedent (your loved one) lost their life;
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty to provide “reasonable care” was the direct cause of the death, and the decedent’s death could have been prevented or avoided altogether were it not for the defendant’s breach of reasonable care.
Massachusetts Modified Comparative Negligence Law
Under this doctrine, the decedent’s estate beneficiaries will not recover compensation for damages if it is found that the deceased was either equally or more responsible for the resulting accident.
Also, if multiple parties could be held liable for the accident that caused your loved one’s death, you could be barred from recovering any damages if the decedent’s negligence exceeded the combined percentage or degree of negligence of all defendants.
Often, when potential at-fault parties and insurance companies learn that surviving beneficiaries intend to sue for damages, they start looking for ways to blame the deceased for causing the fatal accident to minimize their financial liability. This tactic can be especially effective since the deceased is not around to defend themselves.
But don’t worry, a Brockton wrongful death lawyer is knowledgeable when it comes to Massachusetts wrongful death laws and will work to downplay the decedent’s degree of fault to make sure your family takes home the compensation you deserve.
How Do You Start A Wrongful Death Claim In Massachusetts?
Before lodging a wrongful death claim, you need to be sure you have the authority to start the claim. Only the administrator or executor of the decedent’s estate can start a wrongful death claim in Massachusetts. This person is designated in the decedent’s will; if there’s no will, then a probate court shall appoint one. A Brockton wrongful death lawyer can apply to have an executor of the estate found.
Once the executor of the estate has been found, or the administrator has been established, this party has three years from the date of death to file a lawsuit.
What Is The Difference Between A Wrongful Death Claim And A Survival Action In Massachusetts?
A wrongful death typically occurs when an individual loses their life because of the negligent conduct or inaction of another person or entity. There are many fatal accidents and injuries that can result in the wrongful death of a loved one, including:
- Car accident
- Trick accident
- Pedestrian accidents
- Workplace injuries
- Defective products
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- And many others
It can be hard to consider starting a legal battle when you’re grieving the loss of a family member. Besides, financial costs and uncertainties brought about by the death of a loved one – such as funeral costs and expenses – can add to the stress. A wrongful death claim or lawsuit in Massachusetts aims to compensate the decedent’s surviving beneficiaries for the losses they incurred (or will incur) because of their loved one’s passing.
In contrast, a survival action in Massachusetts allows the executor or representative of the decedent’s estate to seek damages for the harm and losses suffered by the decedent before death. In simple terms, a survival action allows the estate representative to step in the decedent’s shoes and collect compensation for damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover through a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit had he or she survived. Wrongful death claims and survival actions are often filed simultaneously.
Some of the damages a decedent’s estate can obtain through a survival action include:
- Loss of wages
- The decedent’s pain and suffering from the time of the injury to the time of death
- Loss of future income that the deceased would have received had she or he survived
- Medical costs incurred during the decedent’s final injury that the estate paid
How Long Do You Have To File A Wrongful Death Claim In Massachusetts?
The death of a family member is often devastating, and it can be hard to imagine going against insurance companies and the lawyers of at-fault parties when still grief-stricken by the loss of your loved one. An adept wrongful death lawyer at The Law Office of Robert C. Shea, P.C. will help you through this difficult time and make the legal process run as seamlessly as possible for your family.
However, it is important to remember that strict time limits exist when filing a wrongful death claim. In Massachusetts, the family representative or estate administrator has three years from the date of the death to start a wrongful death claim. This period can vary (could even be shorter) depending on the fact of your case. If the claim is not started within the set time limit, Massachusetts courts will refuse to consider your case.
Please make time to contact an experienced Brockton wrongful death lawyer so that they can start the legal process ASAP and protect your interest.
How Much Does A Brockton Wrongful Death Lawyer Cost?
Grieving families are often concerned about the cost of hiring an experienced wrongful death lawyer. At The Law Office of Robert C. Shea, P.C., we accept wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis – meaning that you won’t pay any upfront fee or legal costs unless compensation is recovered. This no-win-no-fee agreement protects grieving families from any financial risk if the lawsuit is not successful. And our law office does not charge anything for initial consultations, so it won’t cost you a dime to call us to discuss your potential lawsuit.
Preventable deaths are some of the most painful ones to cope with, and if a family member has succumbed to a fatal injury brought about by circumstances caused by the irresponsible, negligent, reckless, or wrongful act of another, you may be entitled to compensation through a Massachusetts wrongful death lawsuit.
With the assistance of an experienced Brockton wrongful death lawyer at The Law Office of Robert C. Shea, P.C., you may be able to recover the compensation your family deserves. We invite you to contact our law office at 508-506-5681 to book your free claim evaluation.