The accidental or wrongful death of a loved one is a devastating and overwhelming experience. The assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney can relieve you from dealing with the added worries and concerns of matters related to pursuing a wrongful death claim.
Who are the Beneficiaries
If you are a beneficiary of a wrongful death victim, you may be entitled to compensation. The wrongful death claim must be brought by a personal representative appointed by the Probate Court to probate the decedent’s estate.
The beneficiaries entitled to compensation are:
- the spouse, if no children or issue (offspring);
- the spouse and children or issue; and
- if no wife, children, or issue, the next of kin.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
As in other personal injury claims, you must prove: the defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent; that the defendant was negligent; damages; and that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the damages. You must also prove that there is a beneficiary such as a surviving spouse, child or next of kin to whom the compensation can be paid.
Damages Under the Wrongful Death Statute
Under the wrongful death statute (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 229), a person who by his negligence causes the death of a person shall be liable in the damages in the amount of:
Fair monetary value of the decedent to the persons entitled to receive the damages recovered, as provided in section one, including but not limited to: compensation for the loss of the reasonably expected net income; services; protection; care; assistance; society; companionship; comfort; guidance; counsel, and advice of the decedent to the persons entitled to the damages recovered;
Reasonable funeral and burial expense of the decedent; and
Punitive damages in an amount of not less than five thousand dollars in such case as the decedent’s death was caused by the malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct of the defendant or by the gross negligence of the defendant.
The damages are based on the value of the decedent to the beneficiaries.
Compensation for Conscious Pain and Suffering
You may also bring a claim for conscious pain and suffering if you can prove that the decedent suffered consciously before he or she died.
In a wrongful death claim, the value of the claim is largely determined by the nature of the relationship of the beneficiary to the decedent. Some of the factors considered are the time, activities, and vacations they enjoyed together, and love and support.
Proof of Net Income
In addition, as to their reasonably expected net income, there must be evidence as to the expected income, time of employment and life expectancy. This typically requires the testimony of expert witnesses.
Wrongful Death Claims
Free Wrongful Death Consultation
If you are thinking about pursuing a wrongful death claim, contact Attorney Bob Allison now for a free consultation by calling 978-740-9433 or filling out our free consultation form.