Liability due to an Automobile Accident or other Negligence That Results in a Wrongful Death
Automobiles are generally very safe machines to operate. From anti-lock braking systems to seat belts, over the years, developments have been made to drastically reduce the amount of injuries involving automobiles. Yet, even with these developments, automobile accidents still happen. And, in some cases, these accidents are preventable, and fault can be placed with a person and/or a company. Further, unfortunately, some of these accidents result in death. Retaining the services of an attorney experienced in wrongful death matters can help to obtain compensation from all liable parties. Unfortunately, a Holyoke woman, walking her dog across the street, was struck and killed by the driver of a pickup truck. Recently, her family filed a wrongful death suit against the driver in an attempt to obtain some compensation for their loss. A discussion of the elements of a wrongful death lawsuit will follow below.
What is a Wrongful Death Action?
In Massachusetts, wrongful death occurs when a person dies as a result of another party’s negligence, and the decedent would have been able to recover damages from the negligent party for his/her personal injuries if he/she had survived. As with all negligence, wrongful death actions may include willful, wanton, or reckless actions, as well as breaches of warranty. Effectively, in a negligence action, a successful plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, breached that duty, and injuries were suffered by the decedent as a result of that breach, leading to his/her death.
Wrongful Death Basics
In MA law requires wrongful death actions be filed by the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate. Typically, the executor or administrator is responsible for carrying out the instructions from the decedent’s will, including settling his/her final debts and closing out the estate. If the decedent did not leave a will, or the will did not name an executor or administrator, surviving family members can seek to appoint someone through the probate process to file the wrongful death claim. This could include a family member or even an attorney. Finally, beneficiaries of a wrongful death action can be the spouse of the decedent, the decedent’s children or their next of kin, if unmarried.
In Massachusetts, all wrongful death matters must be filed within 3 years from either the date of the death of the decedent or the time the executor/administrator of the decedent first knew, or should have known, that the decedent’s death was caused by another’s negligence.
Additionally, it is important to note that in MA the law prohibits the following entities from being the defendant in a wrongful death action:
- Employers, if the death occurred while the decedent was working;
- Railroads, if the decedent was killed on or near railroad tracks; and
- Streetcar companies, if the decedent was killed when he/she was on or near the tracks, and where the tracks do not cross the sidewalk or road.
If a plaintiff is able to convince a jury that the defendant’s negligence resulted in the decedent’s death, the plaintiff will be able to recover the following damages from the defendant:
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses;
- Loss of the decedent’s expected net income; and
- Loss of services, care, protection, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel, and advice of the decedent.
The defendant may also be held liable for punitive damages, if the court finds that the death was caused by gross or extreme negligence.
Seek Legal Advice
If a loved one was killed, and you believe that another person or entity is at fault, speak to an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Leontire & Associates, P.C. have the experience necessary to analyze your case and do what is necessary to obtain just compensation for your loss. Contact our Boston office today.