Boston Wrongful Death Attorney
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 the families of the victim, but a compassionate personal injury attorney may be able to help alleviate some of the stress. If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s actions, our Boston wrongful death lawyer could work with you to pursue significant financial compensation, justice, and accountability in civil court. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan today at (617) 977-6647 for a free consultation.
What is Considered “Wrongful Death” Under Massachusetts Law?
Wrongful death lawsuits cannot be filed every time a person dies as a result of someone else’s actions. In order for families and their 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
If your loved one’s death did not occur under one of the above circumstances, a wrongful death lawsuit might not be the right course of action for your case. 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 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. Contact our Boston wrongful death attorney to discuss your case.
Common Situations Involving Wrongful Death Claims in Boston
Wrongful death can arise in almost any kind of situation. Many wrongful death cases stem from car accidents. However, wrongful death can occur in other situations that may not appear dangerous at first. For example, wrongful death lawsuits can arise when a young child drowns in a swimming pool. People who have pools are required to take certain safety precautions, especially when children are around. If a child is left unattended near an unsecured pool, a wrongful death lawsuit may be the result.
Other accidents that can lead to wrongful death lawsuits include construction site accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and extremely poor or negligent medical care. Any situation where a person acts negligently and death occur as a result may be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Call our Boston wrongful death lawyer for guidance on your case.
Parties Involved a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death may involve any number of parties. Of course, there is the defendant, but there could be a whole host of family members seeking damages on the plaintiff’s side. The law has developed rules and regulations for who may file a wrongful death claim and who may collect damages.
First, a wrongful death claim must be filed by a representative of the decedent. The representative is often an administrator or executor of the decedent’s estate. In many cases, the decedent’s spouse or closest next of kin will act as a representative.
Additionally, there could be multiple other parties all seeking damages besides the estate representative. Not only that, but certain loved ones may be able to pursue different damages based on their relationship with the decedent. For example, a spouse may recover for loss of companionship as well as consortium. The consortium is like companionship but includes a romantic or sexual element. If under a certain age, the children of a decedent can recover from the loss of parental companionship and guidance.
When multiple family members are all trying to claim damages for wrongful death, courts tend to prioritize them in the following order: spouses, children, grandchildren, and finally, any remaining next of kin. If you want to file a wrongful death suit for the loss of a loved one, please contact our Boston wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
What Damages are Possible in a Wrongful Death Case in Boston
Numerous kinds of damages can be claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit. Many are associated with the financial cost of the death itself, while other expenses pertaining to the emotional losses suffered by the decedent’s family.
A plaintiff may claim any medical expenses incurred by the decedent in a wrongful death lawsuit before they died. These costs must be a result of the wrongful or negligent actions of the defendant. For example, any hospital bills for the decedent’s treatment prior to death can be claimed as damages. Additionally, if the decedent was in any pain before they died, you can claim damages for their pain and suffering.
You can also claim damages for the lost income of the decedent. Depending on how old the decedent was when they died, they may have had a number of working years left in their expected lifetime. As a result of their wrongful death, they are no longer able to earn that income, and family members who they supported are put in a tight spot. The damages you may recover for lost future earnings will be calculated based on the decedent’s past earnings. If they earned a higher income throughout their life, you might get more damages. You may also calculate expected advances in careers and increased future earnings.
Family members can also recover for the emotional toll of losing a loved one. Loss of companionship, consortium, parental guidance, and financial support may all be claimed. Funeral expenses can also be claimed, but only by the person who actually pays for the funeral.
Punitive damages may be awarded in wrongful death lawsuits, but these damages are not intended to make plaintiffs whole again. Instead, these damages are designed to punish the defendant for their bad behavior. The heinous or morally repugnant a defendant’s actions were, the greater the punitive damages might be. To discuss damages relating to your own case, call our Boston wrongful death lawyer.
How Damages are Calculated in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Calculating damages can be very complicated, especially when dealing with more abstract concepts like pain and suffering. Many find it hard to put a price on the life of their loved ones. Understandably, this can feel like a very cold and unfeeling process, but calculating damages is essential to your case. We cannot undo the actions that lead to your loved one’s death. The only thing courts have the power to do is award damages in the hopes that you and your family can move on from your tragic loss.
Damages are often calculated with the assistance of an expert. Economists are frequently used to determine the decedent’s earning potential over the course of their expected lifetime. We also rely on medical records to determine the total costs of medical expenses.
Damages for emotional losses like the loss of companionship can be harder to pin down. In these instances, we often consider multiple factors to help determine an appropriate claim for damages. For example, when a spouse dies, we will look at factors such as the length of the marriage, whether the couple was living together, whether there were children or plans to have children, the couple’s intimate life, and the decedent’s life expectancy. Speak with our Boston wrongful death attorney to discuss the potential damages in your case.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims in Massachusetts
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 distributee has reach majority, whichever comes first. Our Boston wrongful death lawyer can clarify for individual plaintiffs how these various rules and exceptions might apply to their unique case.
Our Boston Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help
The death of a loved one can be a profoundly life-altering event. Massachusetts’ laws surrounding wrongful death lawsuits are multifaceted, but our 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. Contact our Boston personal injury lawyers today at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan. Call (617) 977-6647 to speak with our experienced Boston wrongful death attorney about suing for the death of a loved one in Boston.