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Wrongful Death Suit in Massachusetts

The heartbreak of a loved one’s death overshadows the logistical and financial stresses of providing a burial according to the deceased’s wishes; paying off residual bills; and coping with the loss of an income. In cases where a loved one’s death was caused by another’s actions, this can be especially emotionally difficult—but the law provides a remedy to the financial stress caused by a wrongful death.

In Massachusetts, a wrongful death is one caused by another party through

  • negligence
  • breach of warranty
  • conduct which is “wanton and reckless”

Excluded explicitly from these criteria are workplace deaths and deaths on or near railroads and streetcar tracks. In general, the personal representative of the decedent can file a wrongful death suit in those cases in which the departed could have filed a personal injury suit, if they had survived.

However, under the “wanton and reckless” standard, a wrongful death suit may be filed following a criminal trial, even if the defendant is not guilty. Famously, this was the case when the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman won damages against OJ Simpson as a court found him civilly liable for their deaths, even though he had been cleared of criminal responsibility for their murders.

In filing a wrongful death suit, survivors (through the estate’s personal representative) can seek financial compensation for reasonable burial expenses, counseling and other comfort expenses for the bereaved, and the lost income of the decedent. Punitive damages are only available in cases where the death was caused by gross negligence or the aforementioned “wanton and reckless” conduct.

The statute of limitations for filing the suit is three years from the date of death or from the personal representative of the estate becoming aware of the basis for a wrongful death suit.

If you have lost a loved one too soon due to someone else’s actions, you may be feeling lost. Our office wants to help you get what you and your family deserve during this difficult time. We can help tabulate the financial burden of your loved one’s death, find where the other party failed to act appropriately, and guide you through the court process. Call us today for a free consultation.