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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in New Jersey?

Determining Eligibility for Accidental Death Damages

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim In New Jersey, when someone dies as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another person, there may be surviving individuals who have a right to bring a lawsuit for financial or other losses suffered. But how do you determine whether you qualify to pursue compensation after the death of a loved one? Can anyone who feels loss because of the death of another person seek compensation for that loss?

In New Jersey, as in other states, the answer to that last question posed above is “no.” In order to have the right to file a lawsuit to recover monetary compensation after the accidental or wrongful death of another person, you must be considered a “real party in interest.” A wrongful death action in New Jersey is customarily filed by a representative of all persons who suffered loss because of the death. That person is most often the executor or administrator of the decedent’s will, but may be anyone who meets the statutory definition of a real party interest.

Under the New Jersey wrongful death statute, the following persons have standing as real parties in interest in a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • A surviving spouse
  • A child or grandchild of the decedent
  • A surviving parent of the decedent
  • Surviving siblings, nephews and nieces
  • Anyone who can prove in court that he or she was "actually dependent" on the decedent for support

Even though the lawsuit is typically filed on behalf of all qualified beneficiaries, there is a hierarchy of recovery for a wrongful death. If the spouse or any children survive, they will be entitled to all damages. A parent may only pursue compensation if no spouse or children survive the deceased. Siblings, nieces and nephews will only succeed with a claim if there is no spouse, children or parents alive at the time of death.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Proving that a Death Was Wrongful

The Requirements for Recovering Compensation after the Death of Another Person

Recovering Compensation When your family member dies because of the wrongful act of another person, you have the right to seek damages for all your losses. You can seek compensation for the intentional killing of a loved one, but, as a practical matter, most wrongful death actions are based on allegations of negligence.

As the party initiating a legal claim, you will have the “burden of proof.” Under the laws of New Jersey, that means that you must produce evidence that would lead a jury to rule in your favor. With any personal injury claim, including wrongful death lawsuits, the burden of proof is established as “a mere preponderance of the evidence.” In essence, that means that you must demonstrate to the finder of fact (usually the jury) that your presentation of the facts has more credibility and weight than the defendant’s version of what happened. It’s a considerably lower burden of proof than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard in criminal proceedings.

A wrongful death claim is essentially a personal injury claim. When brought under a theory of negligence, it requires a showing that:

  • The at-fault party did not act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances (in legal terminology, the defendant breached the duty of care)
  • The breach of the duty of care was both the actual and the proximate cause of an accident—the accident would not have happened “but for” the defendant’s conduct; and the accident was reasonably foreseeable as a result of the breach of the duty of care
  • You suffered actual losses—Your losses were not covered by insurance or were not to items that had no value.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Who Can Be Sued for Wrongful Death?

Determining Potentially Liable Parties after an Accidental Death

an Accidental DeathIn the aftermath of an accidental death, the sense of loss can be overwhelming. You know that no amount of money can bring your loved one back, or can fully compensate you for all that you’ve lost. Nonetheless, you have a right to hold a careless or negligent person responsible for the devastating impact a wrongful death can have on your life.

Because wrongful death claims are typically based on negligence, one of the first steps in pursuing damages for the accidental death of a loved one is to determine who caused the accident. Because many factors can contribute to the circumstances that lead to an accident, it’s not uncommon to discover that more than one person had some degree of liability. In New Jersey, as in other states, you can bring a lawsuit against any and all parties who contributed to causing the accident that claimed the life of your loved one.

In addition, there are also a number of situations where you may be able to bring a lawsuit against a person or entity not directly involved in the accident that caused the death of your loved one:

  • Under the legal theory of product liability, any entity within the chain of distribution of a product may have liability for injuries caused by a dangerous or defective item. That includes the designer, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor or retailer.
  • If your loved one was killed in a motor vehicle accident and the at-fault party was working at the time of the accident, that person’s employer may potentially have liability for your losses.
  • Under dram shop and social host liability laws, a person or business that serves or sells alcohol to someone who subsequently causes injury to others can have legal responsibility.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

Who Qualifies to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The Requirements for Recovering Compensation after the Death of Another Person

wrongful death lawsuitUnder the laws of New Jersey, when a person dies as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another person, that individual may be responsible for losses suffered by others. There are limits, though, on who may obtain damages after a person’s death. It’s generally not enough to allege that you knew the person and have suffered loss.

You Must Qualify as a “Real Party in Interest”

This is not just a requirement in a wrongful death action—all personal injury claims are limited to individuals who are deemed to be real parties in interest. Accordingly, you must have a valid claim for loss, as well as a legal right to pursue a claim.

As a general rule, whether or not a person qualifies as a real party in interest is established by the state wrongful death statutes. In New Jersey, a wrongful death lawsuit may be brought by:

  • The surviving spouse
  • A child or grandchild of the deceased
  • A surviving parent of the deceased
  • Surviving siblings, nieces and nephews of the decedent
  • Anyone who can prove “actual dependence” on the deceased in a court of law

Under New Jersey law, there’s a hierarchy for pursuing damages in a wrongful death action. If there is a surviving spouse or children, they are entitled to all the proceeds of a wrongful death action. A parent of the deceased only has a right to compensation when there is no surviving spouse and no children. Siblings, nieces and nephews are only entitled to a damage award if there’s no spouse, child or parent surviving the deceased. Even though the lawsuit will typically be filed by one person as representative of all surviving family members, any proceeds are divided equally among those who qualify as real parties in interest, as set forth above.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Understanding a Wrongful Death Claim

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim and What Is Its Purpose?

wrongful death claimThere’s nothing that can prepare you for the death of a loved one, especially when it’s totally unexpected. After an accidental or wrongful death, you can’t bring your loved one back, but you do have the right to seek compensation for your losses. In this series of blogs, we’ll look at the legal principle of wrongful death, who can file a claim, what types of losses are recoverable and who can be potentially liable.

First, though, let’s identify what a wrongful death claim is.

In essence, what makes a death wrongful is that it was caused by the actions of another person. It may result from an intent to bring about death, but is more often the result of carelessness or negligence.

Under a legal theory of negligence, you must prove three things to recover compensation. First, you must show that the defendant (at-fault party) did not meet the standard of care expected under the circumstances. You must then show that the breach of that standard of care caused an accident and, as a result of the accident, your loved one died.

There is no law that establishes a specific standard of care. Instead, that is determined by the jury in a case-by-case basis. The jury will look at all the circumstances and make a determination as to whether the actions of the defendant were consistent with what a reasonable person would have done. If not, the conduct is considered to be wrongful.

To establish cause, you must show both actual cause and proximate cause. Actual cause is relatively straightforward, asking the simple question of whether the accident would have occurred in the absence of the breach of the standard of care. Proximate cause, though, looks at whether the accident was reasonably foreseeable based on the breach of care.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

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