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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

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