Cambridge Wrongful Death Lawyer
Nobody wants to file wrongful death lawsuits. People file these types of cases because they have lost a loved one due to the negligent misconduct of someone else. Although it seems rather cold and unfeeling to place a price tag on the life of a family member, you can be compensated for wrongful death. Generally, only certain people, like immediate family members, may recover in a wrongful death lawsuit. In addition, there may be specific damages that can be claimed.
Wrongful death lawsuits are somewhat unique because only certain people may file and only for specific damages. Typically, immediate family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit and claim damages the decedent themselves could have claimed had they survived. This might include damages pertaining to pain and suffering, lost wages, physical injuries, and more. Family members can also claim damages for the loss of companionship and emotional injuries.
If you have unfortunately lost a loved one under circumstances you believe were negligent or due to someone’s willful or reckless conduct, you should consult with an attorney right away. Our Cambridge wrongful death lawyers can help you file your case and determine what kind of damages you may claim. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 to schedule a confidential legal consultation with our staff, free of charge.
How is a Wrongful Death Determined in Cambridge?
A wrongful death will have occurred under different circumstances than a death that is merely accidental. What makes a death “wrongful” is how it occurred and who was responsible. In most cases, a wrongful death occurs due to the negligent actions, or inaction, of another party. That other party usually owes some sort of duty of care to the decedent, and the death is a result of a breach of that duty. Wrongful deaths are also deaths that could have been prevented had proper care been exercised by the defendant.
Common examples of wrongful deaths involve “common carriers.” A common carrier is responsible for safely transporting people and goods. Tour buses, planes, and taxis are examples of common carriers. A common carrier owes a duty of safety to its passengers. If an accident results in the death of a passenger, that would be a wrongful death, and the passenger’s family could file a lawsuit.
The key element of a wrongful death is that the defendant owed the decedent a duty of care and breached that duty, resulting in the decedent’s death. If there was no duty of care and the death was purely accidental, you may not sue for wrongful death. Speak with our Massachusetts wrongful death lawyers about your case. We can help you determine if you have a case for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Proving a Wrongful Death Case in Cambridge
In most cases, wrongful death lawsuits are based on a theory of negligence. Negligence cases carry four crucial elements that must be proven if you are to be successful.
First, you must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent. What this duty looks like will depend on the relationship between the decedent and the defendant. If the defendant is a common carrier, such as a taxi or tour bus company, the relationship will be more obvious and can often be shown with a receipt or ticket showing the decedent was the defendant’s passenger. Other possible relationships involving a duty of care may be a doctor and a patient or a daycare provider and a child.
Second, you need to demonstrate that the defendant breached their duty of care to the decedent. Proving there was a breach of this duty involves showing the defendant acted, or failed to act, in a way compatible with the safety and care of the decedent. This can be done by looking to the relevant industry standards that dictate how the defendant was supposed to act. You could also compare the defendant’s behavior with their past behavior. If their behavior with the decedent was unusual, this may be indicative of a breach.
Third, you must prove that the breach in question was the cause of your loved one’s death. In some cases, the circumstances surrounding a wrongful death may be unclear. It could be possible that the death resulted from the negligent actions of the decedent rather than the defendant. The defendant may attempt to argue that some intervening force was the true cause of death rather than their breach of duty.
Finally, you must prove the damages in question are real and not merely hypothetical. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the fact that your loved one is dead is often enough proof of real damages. However, gathering as much information and evidence of damages as possible will be more helpful to your case. Call our Cambridge wrongful death lawyers for help with your case.
Wrongful Death as an Intentional Act in Cambridge
You may also recover from a wrongful death case if the death was caused by the defendant’s intentional or reckless conduct. Intentional acts that lead to a wrongful death case are often criminal actions that may also be criminally charged and prosecuted. For example, a wrongful death from a car crash may be based on negligence if the crash was accidental. However, the case could be based on intent if the defendant intended to hit the decedent’s car.
Recklessness involves actions that are inherently risky. Usually, the defendant is aware of the risk to safety and chooses to act anyway. For example, if the above-mentioned car crash was caused by the defendant engaging in a high speed drag race, their behavior may be considered reckless because it is extremely dangerous and they chose to act anyway.
These types of cases may be entitled to punitive damages. Speak to our Cambridge wrongful death attorneys today to discuss your case.
Recovering Compensation in a Wrongful Death Case in Cambridge
Most legal remedies convert harm suffered into monetary compensation. While this is easy to understand in cases where someone damages the property of another, when death is involved, it seems impossible to think of accepting money in place of a lost family member. However, compensation is not intended to replace a loved one, but only to help decrease the effects of the loss and shift the burden from the suffering family to the person who caused the harm.
Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 229 § 2 states that family members could receive compensation for the loss of the following factors that would have been provided by the deceased:
- Expected income
- Society and companionship
- Guidance, counsel, and advice
In addition, the statute also allows for the recovery of funeral and burial expenses.
Generally, a plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit may recover compensatory damages that make up for whatever was lost because of the decedent’s death. Massachusetts typically bars punitive damages in almost all cases, including wrongful deaths. Punitive damages are not designed to make a plaintiff whole again. Instead, they are meant to punish the defendant and deter future bad behavior.
In rare circumstances where death is due to gross negligence or willful, wanton or reckless conduct, your family may be entitled to punitive damages. Call our Cambridge wrongful death attorneys to discuss your case with our experienced and dedicated staff.
Who Can Recover Compensation in a Cambridge Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The wrongful death statute specifies that only immediate family members are intended to be the beneficiaries of a wrongful death claim. If the deceased person is survived by a spouse but no children or grandchildren, the recovery goes solely to the spouse.
If there is a surviving spouse and one child or grandchild, then the compensation is split evenly by the two. If there is a spouse and two or more children or grandchildren, the spouse receives one third of the compensation and the remainder is shared amongst the children (or their children in certain circumstances).
If there is no surviving husband or wife, then the amount recovered in a personal injury lawsuit goes to the “next of kin” under state law.
Call our Cambridge wrongful death lawyers to talk about your case and determine whether you can recover compensation for your loved one’s death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Cambridge?
A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the administrator or executor of the deceased person’s estate. The administrator is someone named to oversee payment of the deceased person’s debts and distribution of assets. It may be a family member or someone entirely unrelated to your family, such as an attorney.
A wrongful death action usually must be filed within three years of the death. However, in rare cases, if it took time for it to become apparent to the administrator that there might be a claim for wrongful death, the statute of limitations period would not begin to run until the date the administrator knew or should have known they had grounds for a wrongful death claim. For assistance with filing a claim within the legal time frame, family members of the deceased person should contact our Cambridge wrongful death lawyers as soon as possible.
Speak with Our Cambridge Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
Many times, when families suffer the untimely loss of a loved one, they just want answers. They want to know how it happened and if it could have been prevented. It takes investigation to find the answers. A knowledgeable Cambridge wrongful death lawyer may be able to conduct the investigation and provide peace and stability for the future. To learn your options, call our Cambridge personal injury lawyers at (617) 925-6407 for a free case review now.