The loss of a loved one is always difficult. That loss is often magnified when the death is sudden, unnecessary, and occurs under traumatic circumstances. While nothing makes up for the loss of a family member, Massachusetts law protects surviving family members’ right to the support they would have received had their lost loved one survived.
The Massachusetts wrongful death statute makes a person who negligently causes the death of another human being liable to certain members of that person’s family for specific losses, including non-economic losses such as loss of companionship. These compensable losses include:
The wrongful death statute also sets forth other grounds, such as willful, wanton or reckless actions causing the death of a person. However, in most cases, simple negligence is sufficient to support a wrongful death claim. In this regard, the evidence to establish a wrongful death claim is often identical or virtually identical to that which would have been used to support a personal injury claim if the victim had not died as a result of the injuries.
For example, a wrongful death action may result from a car accident, medical malpractice, or nearly any other type of negligence that leads to the death of another person.
In many states, a wrongful death claim belongs to the decedent’s estate. However, in Massachusetts, wrongful death law is slightly different. The statute is clearly constructed to ensure that those left behind are provided for when a family member is negligently killed. While only the administrator or personal representative of the deceased’s estate can bring a wrongful death action, he or she brings the action on behalf of the members of the decedent’s family who are entitled to compensation under the law.
While this may seem like a technical distinction, it can actually be very important. That is because the decedent’s estate is liable for the decedent’s debts. Therefore, if the person who was negligently killed died in debt, any assets in the estate may be subject to collection action by creditors. However, under Massachusetts law, wrongful death compensation is collected by the personal representative on behalf of the decedent’s surviving family members. Therefore, even if there are significant outstanding debts of the estate, family members will receive the compensation collected in a wrongful death action.
Only one type of wrongful death recovery goes to the estate, and it does not arise in every wrongful death case. The personal representative may also bring suit for pre-death suffering by the defendant. For example, if a person is injured in a car accident through the negligence of another driver, and the victim survives for two days in the hospital before succumbing to his injuries, there may be a wrongful death claim for pain and suffering. That claim belongs to the deceased rather than the surviving family members, so it passes to the estate. If there are no outstanding debts to consume that recovery, any amount recovered for the deceased’s suffering will be distributed according to the terms of the will or the laws of intestate succession.
Most Massachusetts wrongful death action must be commenced within three years of the date of death. However, there are exceptions. The best source of information about whether you have a potential wrongful death claim, and what the deadline for filing such a claim is, is an experienced Massachusetts wrongful death attorney like Kevin J Broderick.
Massachusetts wrongful death Attorney Kevin J Broderick understands that it can be difficult to know how best to proceed after the sudden loss of a loved one. That’s why he offers free consultations to victims of personal injury and those who have lost loved ones to negligence. Just call 978-459-3085 or fill out the contact form on this page to take the first step toward educating yourself about your rights and options.
Let Attorney Kevin Broderick answer your questions and evaluate your personal injury or vehicle accident case for free!
The information you obtain on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.