Massachusetts Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one because of the negligence or misconduct of others, you may have the opportunity to file a wrongful death lawsuit under Massachusetts law. A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal action filed on behalf of the family members of the deceased to recover damages associated with their untimely death. This compensation can be a much-needed source of assistance to those in desperate need of comfort during a trying time.
Wrongful deaths may occur because of medical mistakes, motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, and many other situations. In addition to the pain and grief that is inherent to the loss of a loved one, your family may be left with significant unanticipated expenses, including final medical bills, funeral expenses, and burial costs. If the deceased was the primary source of income for the family, additional financial pressures may exist as family members struggle to replace the loss in income. You may recover monetary compensation that can help with all of this hardship.
If you believe that you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim, you may wish to seek help from the Law Office of John Sheehan. Our compassionate Massachusetts wrongful death lawyers understand how difficult it can be when the unthinkable occurs and may be able to help you lighten some of the burden. Call (617) 533-0726 today for help.
Who Is Responsible for Damages in a Wrongful Death Case in Massachusetts?
The party that will be liable for damages in a wrongful death case is the one that is at fault for negligently, recklessly, or intentionally causing the death in question. This may be one person, multiple people, or even one or more businesses or employers. You do have the option to name multiple defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit. Your Boston wrongful death lawyer will be able to help you identify all possible defendants that you should name in your suit.
Proving that someone is liable for damages in a wrongful death lawsuit is very similar to proving liability in a personal injury lawsuit. A successful plaintiff will prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased that they breached through their actions or inactions. The plaintiff must also show that the defendant’s breach of their duty caused the death in question.
In Massachusetts, wrongful death actions may apply to scenarios where someone’s careless or reckless acts caused the death of another person. There are many actions that can be considered careless or reckless enough to cause a wrongful death under Massachusetts law. Wrongful death lawsuits in Massachusetts can be based on the following causes. A Massachusetts wrongful death lawyer can offer further explanation on any of these causes of action:
Negligent acts involve a defendant’s failure to exercise appropriate care in certain circumstances. A wrongful death lawsuit may occur when someone’s failure to use appropriate care resulted in the death of another. An example of a wrongful death lawsuit involving negligence would be where a victim is killed because of a distracted driver.
Wanton, Willful, or Reckless Acts
Wanton, willful, or reckless conduct involves acts where there is a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to another. The defendant must knowingly or intentionally disregard an unreasonable risk. In a wrongful death lawsuit involving this standard, such conduct must be the cause of another’s death. An example of a wrongful death action involving wanton, willful, or reckless conduct would be where a supervisor asks an employee to clean a dangerous machine while it is running, causing the employee’s death.
Breach of Warranty
A breach of warranty involves a breach of an express or implied warranty, thus a breach of contract. An example of a Massachusetts wrongful death action involving a breach of warranty would be a case involving a defective product that causes a death. Manufacturers operate under an implied warranty that their products will be safe for public consumption. If an individual dies because of a harmful, defective product, the manufacturer may be liable in a wrongful death action involving a breach of warranty. A Malden wrongful death lawyer can offer further guidance to victims when determining if this standard applies to their case.
Negligence on Behalf of a Common Carrier
Common carriers are any people or companies that transport passengers or goods for a set rate. An example of a common carrier would be a taxi driver. All drivers must exercise reasonable care and follow the rules of the road. However, common carriers are held to an even higher standard. Accordingly, wrongful death lawsuits may occur when a passenger is killed because a common carrier failed to exercise appropriate care. A Somerville wrongful death lawyer will be able to review victims’ cases to determine if they have a valid claim for wrongful death based on the common carrier’s negligence.
What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and a Murder or Manslaughter Case in Massachusetts?
While a wrongful death suit and a murder or manslaughter charge may be based on the same events, they are very different in how they affect the family of the victim.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil suit that is filed by the estate and family of the deceased. The civil suit is based on the consequences to the beneficiaries of the families and may end with them receiving compensation from the defendant (or their insurance provider). The plaintiff must prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which essentially means that the defendant more likely than not caused the death.
In contrast, a criminal trial for murder or manslaughter is brought by government prosecutors. The burden of proof for a criminal trial for these charges is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is substantially more difficult to prove than what is necessary in a civil case. Even if a criminal trial is not successful, you may still be able to recover for wrongful death in a civil suit.
Criminal trials may end in fines or jail time for the defendant. However, those fines do not go to the estate of the deceased. Even if there is a criminal trial pending or underway against the responsible party for the death of your loved one, you should still consult a Cambridge wrongful death lawyer about your ability to file a civil suit for wrongful death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Massachusetts?
Deaths that occur because of the negligent, reckless, willful, or wanton acts of others may merit the filing of a wrongful death suit. In Massachusetts, the executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased is the proper party to bring a wrongful death action. The administrator of the estate is usually identified in the deceased’s will, unless there is no will. If there is no will, the court will appoint one. They will be responsible for paying off debts, handling estate matters, and orchestrating the filing of a wrongful death claim. Therefore, the assistance of a wrongful death attorney in Massachusetts is necessary to establish an estate before the ability to file a wrongful death claim.
Typically, the surviving spouse and children of the deceased are the beneficiaries of the estate. One or more of these persons may serve as administrator, as well, or a third party may serve as administrator in some cases. A person does not need to be a beneficiary of a wrongful death lawsuit in order to serve as administrator. For individuals who were unmarried at the time of their deaths, their next of kin would be the beneficiaries of the estate.
Deadline to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts sets limits on how long potential wrongful death plaintiffs have to officially file their suit in court. Estate administrators should file wrongful death actions within three years to abide by the official time limit, known as the statute of limitations. The clock on the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the death, or of the date on which the administrator knew or reasonably should have known of a basis for the wrongful death suit. In other words, you have three years from the date of death to file your suit with the clerk of the court.
If the plaintiff fails to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, the lawsuit will be thrown out by the court before the family members even have a chance to make their case. While some exceptions to the statute of limitations do exist, you should not rely on those to protect your case beyond the three-year limit.
Wrongful death claims can take a long time to prepare. Together with their Wakefield wrongful death attorney, the administrator will have to identify the beneficiaries, gather evidence, and prepare the court filings. If you haven’t reached out to a Massachusetts wrongful death attorney yet, it is critical that you do so as soon as possible.
Damages in Massachusetts Wrongful Death Claims
Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 229 § 2 outlines the damages that may be available to surviving family members of the deceased through a wrongful death action. Some of these damages may include:
- Final medical expenses
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of future income and earning capacity
- Loss of consortium, including the loss of advice, support, companionship, care, and comfort
Unlike economic losses that can easily be calculated by referencing a bill or bank statement, loss of consortium and companionship damages can be difficult to calculate. In a Massachusetts wrongful death lawsuit, juries are often tasked with determining the monetary value of these types of losses. Therefore, damages can vary based on the emotions of the jury members, making it important to present a convincing case. Our Massachusetts wrongful death lawyers can use their years of experience to help build a persuasive case on behalf of their client.
In some cases, punitive damages may also be available. These damages may be relevant when individuals engaged in wanton, willful, or criminal conduct in causing death. Since punitive damages are designed to punish people for their misdeeds, the amount of the damages may depend on the economic wealth and status of those responsible for the wrongful death. The minimum amount awarded for punitive damages in Massachusetts is $5,000. However, punitive damages are difficult to prove because the reckless conduct must be so severe.
Some cases in which punitive damages may be available include accidents that occur as a result of drunk or impaired driving, texting while driving, or other illegal conduct. In these cases, legal counsel must present evidence that the illicit behavior led directly to the death of the decedent. Since these cases may be complex, individuals should consider the merits of getting advice from an accomplished Massachusetts wrongful death lawyer.
Why Hire a Lawyer for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Massachusetts?
Your effort to achieve justice through a wrongful death civil suit can be helped greatly with the assistance of an experienced Massachusetts wrongful death attorney. Attorneys can help establish the estate and work with the administrator to identify beneficiaries, estimate damages, and prepare and file legal documents. A diligent lawyer will work efficiently so that you can stay ahead of any statutory timelines that might bar your recovery.
Your lawyer will be by your side throughout the trial so that you can avoid the complexities of court room procedural rules. Having a professional to deal with the day-to-day responsibilities that come with a wrongful death lawsuit can be an enormous help while the family tries to get through the grieving process. Furthermore, our Massachusetts wrongful death lawyers can offer additional guidance when dealing with the following issues that may arise in a wrongful death action.
When to Speak to a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Massachusetts
Wrongful death lawsuits are highly emotional. Victims’ families must have time to grieve and make arrangements after a loved one’s death. Unfortunately, insurance companies may take advantage of this troublesome time by making an early settlement offer. Victims’ families should not enter into any settlement, sign any release or accept any money in exchange for releasing an individual, corporation, or insurance company from responsibility without understanding the available options for recovering damages. A Massachusetts wrongful death lawyer can help the victims’ families evaluate their options before making any important decisions in a potential wrongful death lawsuit.
Insurance Companies Blaming the Victim in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Insurance companies may potentially hire lawyers, doctors, and private investigators in order to avoid liability in a Massachusetts wrongful death action. One tactic insurance companies may use involves blaming the victim. It can be especially effective because victims are not around to defend themselves
Under Massachusetts law, victims’ families cannot recover compensation if their loved one was mostly to blame for the accident. However, victims’ families can recover compensation if the decedent’s conduct was not greater than the defendant’s responsibility for their death. Their compensation award can be reduced to account for any degree of shared fault. Our Boston personal injury lawyers can help victims’ families and fight on their behalf against the insurance companies.
Paying for a Lawyer in a Massachusetts Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Massachusetts wrongful death lawyers often work on a contingency fee agreement. A contingency fee agreement simply means that the lawyer is only paid if and when there is a successful recovery of damages. In Massachusetts wrongful death cases, the fee percentages charged by attorneys can vary depending on the type of case and difficulty involved. A Massachusetts wrongful death lawyer can discuss the terms with you before you agree to any fee structures.
Attorneys are aware that victims’ families are left in very difficult situations after a wrongful death. It can be stressful when determining if it is appropriate to pursue a wrongful death action. Accordingly, you should always contact your potential Massachusetts wrongful death lawyers for a free case review. In a case review, you can determine whether you have a valid claim for wrongful death. Furthermore, if families choose to have a lawyer represent them with a contingency fee agreement, they will not need to pay fees until damages are recovered.
Contact a Massachusetts Wrongful Death Attorney to Seek Justice
Losing a loved one may be one of the most challenging situations to handle. While you may not think of contacting legal counsel right away, you may wish to consider doing so if you lost a loved one to a preventable accident. Not only could you be awarded a compensation amount, but a Boston wrongful death lawyer may be able to hold negligent parties accountable for causing the death of your loved. At the Law Office of John Sheehan, we are ready and willing to help you do just that.
Waiting too long to pursue possible compensation can result in the dismissal of your claim. Be sure to reach out to a Massachusetts personal injury attorney at (617) 533-0726 as soon as possible to get started on your case.