When Injuries Result in Death: Wrongful Death Litigation in Massachusetts

Medical LawsuitHaving a love one harmed or catastrophically injured in any kind of accident can have long-term physical, emotional, and financial effects on the victim, their friends, and family. When an injury results in death, the survivors may be faced with emotional challenges and extensive financial burdens. The primary objective of the civil litigation system is to put victims in the position they would have been, had the accident not occurred. This is usually measured in financial terms. When a person dies due to the negligence of another person, no possible recourse can give back to a family what was lost. The best the survivors can do is to seek justice financially and strive to ensure that this type of harm will not be inflicted upon others in the future.

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

Wrongful death cases are filed when the negligent or wrongful conduct of an individual or entity causes death to another person. Wrongful death lawsuits can arise from a product failure (e.g. vehicle defects such as faulty airbags or brakes), from an auto accident, from a work related accident, or from any other interaction in which a person or entity had a duty to act in a certain way, failed to do so, and caused an injury that led to a person’s death.

Wrongful death damages recovery

Wrongful death recoveries, unlike many civil lawsuit recoveries, are designed to compensate the survivors for their losses, not the deceased individual. For example, in a civil lawsuit in which a person survives, that person may be entitled to pain and suffering damages. These types of damages cannot be awarded in wrongful death lawsuits, as the compensation is designed to reduce the impact on the survivors due to the loss of the victim. These types of recoveries can include the costs of funeral and will executor expenses, loss of income if the decedent provided for his or her family, and medical expenses incurred due to the injury that led to the decedent’s death. These types of monetary damages are called compensatory damages, in that they are compensating the family for monies paid out or for inconveniences or losses the family will face in the future.

The other type of damages awarded in wrongful death cases are called punitive, or exemplary, damages. These are the damages that are awarded to deter similar future conduct by similarly situated wrongdoers. For example, if a large company made a faulty product, knew about the inadequacy of the product and failed to fix it, a court may award punitive damages to deter other companies from engaging in similar conduct in the future. In Massachusetts, wrongful death cases are the only kind of cases in which this form of damages is specifically permitted by law. These damages can be awarded in significant amounts to ensure the desired effect reaches other companies or individuals.

Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim in Massachusetts

Since the injured party is no longer alive to file a legal claim, wrongful death lawsuits are brought on behalf of the deceased individual through their estate. A personal representative of the estate is appointed or assigned (if the decedent left a will) and will carry out the duties of bringing the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased individual. Understanding how this process works can be complicated, especially during such an emotionally challenging time. John J. Sheehan understands how difficult it can be to decide to bring a lawsuit. Our experienced wrongful death litigation attorneys have the knowledge necessary to advocate on the decedent’s behalf to ensure the family receives the compensation it is entitled to by law.  Contact our Boston office today to learn more about bringing a wrongful death claim.