How to File a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident in Massachusetts

Car accidents are difficult and traumatic to go through on their own. When a car accident results in the death of a loved one, the healing process is made even more difficult. Bruises, broken bones, and other physical injuries can heal and mend over time and, in many cases, return to “normal.” Unfortunately, however, a loved one who died because someone else was negligent can never be replaced. In those instances, you may be considering filing a wrongful death claim to get some sort of justice and compensation for the deceased.

The first step to filing a wrongful death claim after a car accident in Massachusetts is determining whether the deceased would have had a personal injury claim had they survived. If so, then a wrongful death claim can be filed on their behalf. Next, determine who is the executor of the deceased’s estate, as they are the only person able to file a wrongful death claim in Massachusetts. Finally, make sure that you file within the statute of limitations since your case will be thrown out if you file too late.

For a free review of your wrongful death claim, call The Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 to speak with our Massachusetts wrongful death lawyers.

Things to Know When Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident in Massachusetts

The general process of filing a lawsuit in Massachusetts is similar regardless of the subject matter. However, wrongful death claims have some unique quirks that make the process slightly different from other kinds of lawsuits. When you go over your claim with our Boston wrongful death lawyers, we can determine the best course of action for your unique situation.

When a Wrongful Death Claim Can Be Filed in Massachusetts

In general, the criteria for filing a wrongful death claim are similar to those for filing a personal injury claim. Loved ones can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased if the deceased could have brought a personal injury claim under the same circumstances had they survived the accident.

There are some circumstances in which a wrongful death claim cannot be filed. For example, if the deceased passed away while working, you cannot file a wrongful death claim against their employer. However, there may be other legal remedies that our lawyers can assist with in that situation.

Only Certain Parties Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Massachusetts

Unlike many other kinds of lawsuits, wrongful death claims cannot be brought by any individual who is affected by the incident. Generally, to file a personal injury lawsuit, you yourself need to be injured. For wrongful death cases, the injured individual is deceased, so someone needs to bring the lawsuit on their behalf.

In many states, only immediate family members can file and recover damages from a wrongful death claim. However, in Massachusetts, only the “executor” of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. An “executor” is an individual who is in charge of the deceased’s worldly possessions – their “estate” – and who “executes” or carries out the deceased’s wishes in their will. An executor can be appointed by the deceased in their will. If the deceased did not specify an executor or they died “intestate” – without a valid will – the court will appoint someone to be an executor. Generally, the executor is a close family member of the deceased, but it technically can be anyone considered competent enough to manage the estate of the deceased.

Massachusetts Wrongful Death Claim Statute of Limitations

Each state has something called a statute of limitations that puts a time limit on how long you have to file a lawsuit for your particular issue. The time differs depending on what you are filing for. While certain crimes, like murder, have no statutory limit on when they can be filed, most legal matters – including the vast majority of civil issues – have what is essentially a filing deadline. The statutory period for car accidents in Massachusetts is three years per Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 260, § 2A. This is the same time period you have to file a wrongful death claim because of a car accident. However, there are some things that can delay the timer for the statute of limitations beginning in very limited circumstances. For example, if a loved one died in a car accident and new evidence of negligence was found five years later, a claim still may be able to be filed. However, it is important to keep in mind that that situation and others like it are extremely rare, so it is very important to file your wrongful death claim within the statutory period.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim in Massachusetts?

Wrongful death in Massachusetts is defined in Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 229 § 2. A wrongful death is any death caused by negligence or an intentional act of the defendant. In a car accident context, this means that you could file a wrongful death claim if the deceased could have filed a car accident lawsuit if they survived. For example, if you and the deceased were in a car and another car hit you because they were speeding, a wrongful death claim can be brought on behalf of the deceased because they could have filed a car accident lawsuit if they survived. In this particular instance, you may be able to bring a car accident lawsuit of your own as well.

Talk to Our Massachusetts Wrongful Death Lawyers About Your Case

Call our Cambridge wrongful death lawyers at The Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 to get a free case review.