Boston Wrongful Death Attorney
Losing a loved one can be trying, both personally and financially. You deserve to know all of the rights you have under Massachusetts law to recover compensation for what you have lost due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct of another.
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) 925-6407 for a free consultation.
What is Considered “Wrongful Death” in Boston?
There are a multitude of scenarios that can cause wrongful death lawsuits in Boston. Various acts may be considered careless or reckless enough to warrant a wrongful death claim. However, wrongful death lawsuits cannot be filed every time a person dies as a result of someone else’s actions. Understanding which actions may give rise to wrongful death claims can help victims assess the validity of their case. Our Boston wrongful death lawyers handle wrongful death lawsuits involving any the following conduct, and more:
Negligent acts are committed in situations where a defendant fails to exercise appropriate care under particular circumstances. When someone’s failure to meet the required standard of care causes another person’s death, a wrongful death can occur. For example, a wrongful death may stem from an incident where a distracted driver kills someone. In this scenario, the distracted driving qualifies as a negligent act because it falls below the required standard of care.
Breach of Warranty
Wrongful death claims may also be caused by a breach of warranty. These cases will involve the breach of either an express or implied warranty. A common example of a breach of warranty claim in a wrongful death lawsuit is a products liability claim. Manufacturers in Boston operate under an implied warranty that the products they sell will be safe for human use or consumption. If someone dies because of a dangerous or defective product, the product’s manufacturer may be liable in a wrongful death case. Our Boston wrongful death lawyers can help victims build their wrongful death claim based on a breach of warranty.
Wanton, Willful, or Reckless Acts
Wanton, willful, or reckless acts can also be the cause of a wrongful death lawsuit. Wanton, willful, or reckless acts are acts that involve a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm to another person will result. Therefore, defendants who knowingly or intentionally disregard an unreasonable risk can be held liable if their actions cause a death. For example, a wrongful death case involving wanton, willful, or reckless conduct might occur where someone lights fireworks at a gas station, causing a deadly accident. Victims who have lost a loved one due to another’s wanton, willful, or reckless acts can contact our Boston wrongful death lawyers for assistance with their case.
Negligent Acts Committed by a Common Carrier
People or companies that transport passengers or goods for a set rate are referred to as common carriers. An example of a common carrier would be a taxi driver. Special laws apply to common carriers, holding them to an even higher standard of care when transporting their goods or passengers. For example, all drivers must exercise reasonable care when operating their vehicle. Taxi drivers, however, must exercise even more care when transporting their passengers to a destination. Accordingly, a taxi driver’s actions that cause a wrongful death can be considered negligent where the same actions would not constitute negligence if committed by a regular driver.
Actions You Cannot File Wrongful Death Claims for in Boston
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. Massachusetts specifically does not allow wrongful death claims against the following:
- 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.
Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit a Civil or Criminal Case in Boston?
In Massachusetts, a wrongful death action is a type of civil lawsuit that seeks to hold a negligent party responsible for a deceased person’s death. Civil suits such as wrongful death claims seek monetary damages from a defendant to compensate the victim. Additional damages are sometimes awarded to punish the defendant’s behavior in a civil case such as a wrongful death claim. Our Boston wrongful death lawyers can help victims determine which monetary damages may be available to them in their wrongful death case.
Wrongful death lawsuits are not criminal cases. However, wrongful death lawsuits can still involve crimes. For instance, a person’s wrongful death can be caused by a crime. Furthermore, circumstances that lead to a wrongful death lawsuit may subject the defendant to criminal charges in a separate proceeding. However, a wrongful death lawsuit is still a civil case that seeks strictly monetary damages.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death in Boston
Wrongful death can arise in almost any kind of situation, even in 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 and the unthinkable occurs, 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, exposure to toxic chemical or substances, unreasonably dangerous product malfunctions, or defective safety equipment. Any situation where someone acts negligently and causes another person’s death may be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, through which their loved ones and beneficiaries may obtain financial comfort. However, there certain categories of wrongful death lawsuit that occur more often than others. The following are types of cases our Boston wrongful death lawyers handle:
Car accidents are one of the most common causes of wrongful death because of the high number of accidents that occur each day. There are many different forms of negligence that can lead to fatal accidents. The following are common causes of deadly crashes in Boston:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Improper left turns
- Illegal lane changes
- Running red lights
- Reckless driving
Families of victims who have died in car accidents because of another driver’s negligence may recover in a wrongful death claim.
Motorcycle accidents are also a common cause of wrongful deaths. Riders are not afforded the same protections as those driving standard cars. Accordingly, serious harm can occur when they are struck by negligent motorists. Many of such accidents occur because drivers fail to check for riders before changing lanes or before merging onto highways. If your loved one suffered a deadly motorcycle crash caused by another driver’s negligence, you should reach out to our Boston wrongful death attorneys for guidance and support.
Most doctors and nurses are highly trained and good at their jobs. Unfortunately, negligence still occurs in the healthcare field, often with dire consequences. Actions that constitute medical malpractice, such as misdiagnosis or medication errors, can result in a patient’s death. Claims for wrongful death may arise from situations where a patient died because of a physician’s careless or reckless acts.
However, medical malpractice cases require extensive evidence. Furthermore, medical malpractice claims may require understanding of complex medical procedures and terminology. Our Boston wrongful death lawyers can offer assistance to plaintiffs who need help proving their wrongful death claim for medical malpractice.
Work accidents are another common cause of wrongful death in Boston. Common workplace accidents involve slips, falls, and falling objects. Those in occupations involving heavy machinery or construction are at a higher risk of being killed in a work accident. For example, a wrongful death could occur where a construction worker fell from excessive heights because their employer failed to provide them with the required safety equipment. However, work accidents can also happen at jobs that are less obviously dangerous.
Defective and dangerous products are another common cause of Boston wrongful death lawsuit. If someone dies because of a defective or dangerous product, the product’s manufacturer may be held liable in a wrongful death action. Defective medications, food, toys, or other products could lead to death in a products liability claim for wrongful death.
Lastly, accidents involving pedestrians are another common cause of wrongful death. Pedestrian accidents have a higher likelihood of being fatal than vehicle accidents because the pedestrian is unprotected. These accidents typically occur at night, sunrise, or sunset because it is more difficult to see pedestrians. Our Boston wrongful death lawyers can offer guidance to the families of a victim after a fatal pedestrian accident.
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.
Proving Fault for a Wrongful Death in Boston
In order for your wrongful death lawsuit to prevail, you must show that the death at issue occurred because of the defendant’s negligence. Many forms of evidence are used to establish such a link. Our Boston wrongful death attorneys can help recover and preserve the following evidence in your case:
Information from Accident Reports
In some cases, information found in accident reports can be used to prove fault for wrongful deaths. For instance, after a deadly car crash, a police officer should visit the scene to draft an accident report. Furthermore, after a fatal workplace accident, workers who were present at the time may be asked to create a similar type of report.
These reports can offer information that points to accidents’ causes. For example, an accident report may contain statements from parties involved in the accident or statements from witnesses. Our lawyers can help recover and review a copy of the official accident report in your case.
Physical Evidence from the Scene
Physical evidence from the scene of an accident can also be used to prove fault. For example, a defective product may be brought into court to demonstrate how it contributed to a death. Furthermore, drug paraphernalia found at the scene of a crash may be used to prove that a motorist was impaired at the time of their collision. Our Boston wrongful death attorneys can help preserve any physical evidence found at the scene of the accident in your case.
Still, some evidence can be challenging to preserve or bring into court. In these cases, other forms of documentation are allowed.
Photos from the Scene
Photos from the scene of an accident are another type of evidence that can help prove fault for a wrongful death. Photos can be used to identify factors that led to a fatal accident. For example, photos of a badly damaged motorcycle may be used to show that a driver was travelling at high speeds when their crash happened
Further, photos from the scene can be used to discredit defendants’ assertions as to how accidents happened. For instance, an at-fault driver may state that their crash actually occurred because of poor road conditions. In that case, photos from the scene showing adequate road conditions could be used to disprove the defendant’s alternative theory of fault.
Therefore, photos from the scene of a fatal accident may be very beneficial when proving fault. Our lawyers can help review any photos taken at the scene of your loved one’s accident during your free case review.
Furthermore, eyewitness testimony is a common type of evidence used to prove fault for wrongful deaths. Eyewitnesses can offer both oral and written statements that explain why accidents occurred. For example, a witness may assert that they saw a driver travelling at high speeds before causing a collision. Furthermore, a witness may state that a deadly slip and fall accident was caused by loose wiring strewn across the floor of a construction site.
Accordingly, you should always attempt to retrieve contact information for potential witnesses to your loved one’s fatal accident. Afterwards, our Boston wrongful death attorneys can offer support when reaching out for their potential cooperation.
Expert Witness Testimony
Expert witness testimony is often used to prove fault for wrongful deaths. A witness is considered an expert because they have completed the necessary training, education, and experience in their respective field.
Expert witnesses are usually used to explain complicated theories of fault. For example, an engineering expert may be summoned to explain how defective safety equipment led to a fatal construction accident. Furthermore, an accident reconstruction expert may be called to demonstrate why a defendant driver is at fault for a crash that occurred at an intersection. Our experienced lawyers can help find the right experts to support your case.
Security Camera Footage
Lastly, security camera footage is also a type of evidence that can help prove fault for wrongful deaths. Footage from nearby surveillance cameras can help explain events that unfolded before, during, and after deadly accidents. For example, footage from a security camera may point to the cause of a fatal accident at an industrial workplace. Furthermore, footage from a surveillance camera in a parking lot can prove who is at fault for a pedestrian accident.
Unfortunately, parties in control of relevant surveillance footage are often reluctant to cooperate with plaintiffs. The assistance of our Boston wrongful death attorneys can be highly valuable when seeking to recover and review relevant security camera footage in your case.
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.
You can 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, intimacy, 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.
Calculating Damages in a Boston Wrongful Death Lawsuit
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.
There also might be a tolling of the statute of limitations in situations where the connection between the death and the party responsible for causing it is not clear immediately. For instance, it may take years to discover the link between a medical condition that caused the death and the medical malpractice that caused it. If you are at all suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the death of a family member or loved one, our Boston wrongful death attorneys may be able to help you sort out whether you and your family have a claim for wrongful death.
What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and a Survival Action in Massachusetts?
There are multiple avenues to financial compensation after a wrongful death. In addition to filing a wrongful death lawsuit, the victim’s family may pursue monetary damages by bringing a survival action against the at-fault party.
Unlike a wrongful death case, a survival action does not seek payment for the death itself. Rather, a survival action seeks to compensate the plaintiff for damages suffered by the deceased between the time of their injury and their death. There are multiple categories of monetary damages that may be awarded in a survival action. For instance, any of the following may be sought:
- Medical expenses suffered by the deceased between their time of injury and their death
- Lost income suffered by the deceased between their time o injury and their death
- Physical pain and emotional suffering suffered by the deceased between their time of injury and their death.
Complicated evidence may be required to support claims for the aforementioned damages. The guidance and support of our Boston wrongful death attorneys can also be highly beneficial when pursuing compensation through a survival action.
When to Contact a Boston Wrongful Death Attorney
When considering whether to file a wrongful death claim in Boston, you should certainly stay within the bounds of the statute of limitations. However, that does not mean that you are fine to wait for three years after the death of your loved one to contact a lawyer to help you with your case.
Preparing a lawsuit can take a long time, particularly for wrongful death suits with substantial damages and multiple named beneficiaries. You will want to give yourself and your attorneys plenty of time to gather information, estimate damages, and reach out to people who might be able to help your efforts.
Some of these people will be witnesses. Eyewitnesses to the tragic events that claimed your loved one’s life can be an invaluable source of credibility for your claim. Unfortunately, the reality is that eyewitnesses become harder to track down as time passes. If you wait too long to begin preparations for filing your claim, you may find yourself with less supporting evidence than you might have had if you had started sooner.
Dealing with Insurance Companies after a Wrongful Death in Boston
Our Boston wrongful death lawyers can start working for you before you even begin to think about a wrongful death lawsuit. it is likely that, within a short period of time after the death of your loved one, the responsible party’s insurance company will contact you. The insurance representative may attempt to get you to make statements about what happened, confirm their version of events, or even offer you a settlement offer where you would waive your right to file a claim.
These efforts are not meant to serve your interests. They are meant to get you to take less than you and your family deserve. Any statement that you make to the representative can be used to deny your insurance claim or to harm your court case for wrongful death. Insurance companies often make initial settlement offers that are drastically lower than what you stand to recover in court. They do this hoping that the grieving family will give in to the financial pressures and emotional stress of the moment and accept whatever they are offered.
You are under no obligation to speak with insurance representatives or to accept a settlement offer. Rather, your best option is to designate your Boston wrongful death lawyer to handle all communication with the insurer’s representatives on your behalf. Showing the other side that you are working with legal counsel shows that you are serious about your claim and reduces the chances that the insurance company will use underhanded tactics against you. If they do, your lawyer can sue the insurance company for bad faith practices and potentially recover even more than you were already owed.
Considering Settlement Offers for a Boston Wrongful Death Claim
Many grieving families who have valid wrongful death claims choose to settle out of court with the responsible party or their insurer. Plenty of these plaintiffs settle their claims for valid reasons and walk away with sizeable compensation packages. Others act without all of the information and cost themselves large amounts of the damages that they deserve. at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan, our Boston wrongful death attorneys are dedicated to making sure that you reach a resolution that makes sense for you.
There are a few key tips that you should be aware of if you have been offered a settlement agreement for a wrongful death claim. First, settlements that are negotiated almost always end up higher than the initial amount, not lower. Second, there is no legal obligation for you to take the first offer through the door. Third, settlement agreements can be negotiated and accepted throughout the process, including once the trial begins. Many of these settlements are reached just hours before the actual hearings are scheduled to begin. These are called “courthouse steps” settlements and are often the most lucrative settlements for the grieving family.
This certainly does not mean that settlements are always a bad idea. Sometimes, a fair settlement can get the family members adequate compensation while avoiding the painful process of a trial about the death of your loved one. The other side’s recognition that they bore responsibility for the wrongful death can also provide closure in some circumstances. Settlement agreements may also accelerate the timeline for when the beneficiaries of the potential lawsuit might see the compensation that they deserve.
We strongly urge you to take the time to bring your proposed settlement offer to your Boston wrongful death attorney. Our lawyers can work directly with you to evaluate the offer on the table, identify your values, and help you make the best decision for you and your family.
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) 925-6407 to speak with our experienced Boston wrongful death attorney about suing for the death of a loved one in Boston.