In the first blog in this series, we looked at the concept of wrongful death. We identified it as a right to legal recourse when the wrongful action of another person causes someone’s death. But are there limits to who may sue for the accidental death of another person? Can you seek compensation for the wrongful death of your best friend, or of a business partner?
Who Has the Right to Seek Damages for Wrongful Death?
As with any type of personal injury lawsuit, a person who files a lawsuit seeking compensation (known under the law as the “plaintiff”) must be what the law considers a “real party in interest.” Typically, a wrongful death complaint is filed by a representative of all survivors have suffered some type of loss because of the death. That person is often the executor of the deceased’s estate, but the lawsuit may be brought by anyone who qualifies as a real party in interest.
Typically, whether or not a person qualifies as a real party in interest is set forth in state wrongful death statutes. In New Jersey, a wrongful death action may be brought by any of the following:
• The surviving spouse
• A child or grandchild of the deceased
• A surviving parent of the deceased
• Surviving siblings, nieces and nephews of the decedent
• Individuals who can prove in a court of law that they were “actually dependent” on the deceased
There is a hierarchy of recovery in a wrongful death action. As a general rule, if there is a surviving spouse or children, they are entitled to all the proceeds of a wrongful death action. Parents only have a right to compensation if there is no surviving spouse and no children. Siblings, nieces and nephews can only receive a damage award if there’s no spouse, children or parents surviving the deceased. Even though the lawsuit will typically be filed by one person as representative of all surviving family members, any proceeds are divided equally among those who qualify as real parties in interest, as set forth above.
Contact the Law Office of Mallon & Tranger
We offer a free initial consultation to anyone in New Jersey who has lost a loved one because of the wrongful conduct of another person. To set up a meeting, contact us online or call us at 732-410-6094 (toll free at 877-320-0692) for an appointment. We have offices in Freehold, Toms River and Point Pleasant.