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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.

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