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A guide to wrongful death claims

When a family member’s promising life is cut short due to a sudden fatal accident, families are left reeling. The traumatic nature of an unexpected death can make it especially challenging to cope. The mourning process can be even more difficult if you suspect that your loved one died from the negligence of another person.

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence or misconduct of another, you and your family members may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim against the other party. Those who can recover damages in New Jersey and Pennsylvania include a surviving spouse, children and anyone who can prove dependence on the deceased.

Elements of a wrongful death case

Four elements of a wrongful death case must be proved to obtain compensation. These elements include:

  • Duty of care. The first element is duty of care, which is the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take reasonable care of the health, safety and well-being of another person.
  • Breach of duty. The next element of a wrongful death suit is proving a violation or breach in the duty of care. The surviving family member must be able to prove that the death of their loved one was caused by the recklessness or negligent actions by the defending party.
  • Causation. It must be proved that without such recklessness, the fatal accident would not have occurred.
  • Damages. Lastly, you must show that damages were incurred because of the wrongful death. Damages refer to specific injury or losses sustained by the person’s death, including lost and future earnings, health insurance, pension, loss of inheritance, current medical bills and funeral expenses. A surviving spouse, children and anyone who can prove dependence can recover damages.

New Jersey does not award surviving family members damages for emotional distress. Pennsylvania, however, does allow the recovery of damages for the mental and physical suffering that the deceased endured. The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death suit in both states is two years.

A wrongful death suit should be expertly handled to avoid causing additional pain to family members. The compensation from a wrongful death suit may help your family avoid financial burdens in the wake of the loss of your loved one. If your family has recently lost a parent, spouse or child because of someone else’s negligence, it is best to contact a compassionate attorney to discuss your legal options.


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