When someone dies as the result of another person’s negligence, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed by the decedent’s personal representatives to seek compensable damages. These cases can arise out of any situation that, had the victim survived, would have given rise to a traditional personal injury case.
Accidents of this type may produce profound financial and emotional strain on families of the victim, but a compassionate personal injury attorney may be able to help alleviate some of it. If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s actions, a Boston wrongful death lawyer could work with you to pursue significant financial compensation, justice, and accountability in civil court.
Defining a “Wrongful Death”
In order for families and their Boston wrongful death attorneys to establish a claim for wrongful death, Massachusetts state law requires the filing party to prove that one of the following three scenarios occurred:
- Negligence or failure to exercise reasonable care
- A breach of warranty
- A wanton or reckless act that led to the death of another
However, Massachusetts specifically does not allow wrongful death claims against:
- A railroad if a deceased person was killed near or on the train tracks
- A streetcar company if the deceased person was killed on or near the tracks at any point where the tracks do not cross a sidewalk or road
- An employer if an employee dies on the job
Damages may depend on the specific facts that are demonstrated in civil court. Some examples of damages that may be awarded include wages and benefits lost between the initial injury or illness and death, funeral and burial expenses, reasonable medical expenses, conscious pain and suffering endured by the deceased, and lost inheritance.
The damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuits are solely for the benefit of the decedent’s distributees in order to compensate them for pecuniary injuries resulting from the wrongful death. Consequently, they may not be considered part of the deceased person’s estate to be distributed pursuant to either the terms of a will or intestate distribution.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 220, the statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit is three years from the date of the death. This rule bars wrongful death lawsuits or claims from being filed in civil courts if more than three years have passed between the date of death and the date of filing. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
When a criminal proceeding is brought against the defendant, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may be allowed a time extension to commence an action, starting from the termination of the criminal proceeding. This is intended to ease the burden on the personal representative, as their participation may be required for two separate legal proceedings. Additionally, it enables the personal representative to use the criminal judgment of conviction as evidence in favor of a civil suit.
When the deceased person’s only distributee is a minor, the statute of limitations period is tolled, or paused, until there is an appointed guardian or the distribute has reach majority, whichever comes first. A wrongful death lawyer in Boston could clarify for individual plaintiffs how these various rules and exceptions might apply to their unique case.
Work with a Boston Wrongful Death Attorney Today
The death of a loved one can be a profoundly life-altering event. Massachusetts’ laws surrounding wrongful death lawsuits are multifaceted, but an experienced and empathetic Boston wrongful death lawyer could work with you and your family to determine whether you are eligible for damages. If so, they could help you fight for the compensation to which you are entitled. When you are ready, schedule a confidential consultation to get started on your case.