Losing a family member is painful, and when you lose a family member because of the action or inaction of another person, anger compounds the loss. Not only have you lost your loved one, you are facing a life without his or her companionship. In addition, there are probably very real monetary losses. Money will not mitigate the loss of your family member, but you have the legal right in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts per Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 229, Section 2 to file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain a sum of money as justice for that loss.
Filing Wrongful Death Claims
Upon application by the heirs, the probate court will appoint a personal representative of the decedent’s estate, which usually is someone the decedent has named in a will, if there is one. To pursue a wrongful death claim, the personal representative should work with a personal injury attorney who understands the statutes that apply to wrongful death, particularly those that provide for the distribution of any proceeds from a successful claim or lawsuit.
What You Have to Prove
In order for the claim to be successful, the death of your family member must have resulted from the reckless behavior or negligence of another person or business. In addition, the death must have resulted in financial losses, such as medical expenses, burial expenses and a loss of earnings.
Calculating the Losses
While it may seem uncharacteristically ghoulish to place a dollar value on someone’s death, our legal system has established a method for determining fair compensation for a wrongful death claim. Claims typically include economic damages such as medical bills, burial expenses, and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages, such as loss of society and companionship, conscious pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
The court considers the age and life expectancy of the decedent, the companionship provided to the surviving family members by the decedent, the expenses incurred for medical and funeral expenses, and the financial support that the decedent provided to the family. In some cases, there may be an award of punitive damages, which are designed to act as a deterrent to similar future conduct.
If you have lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence, consider speaking with a personal injury attorney to review your case and help you determine whether you should file a wrongful death case.