When individuals in New Jersey and around the country are killed because another party acted negligently, their families can pursue civil remedies by filing wrongful death lawsuits. These lawsuits are successful when the plaintiffs can establish that the decedent died because the defendant owed them a duty of care and failed to meet that duty, and they are decided using the preponderance standard. This means the plaintiff must convince the court that their claims of liability and negligence are more likely than not true.
Wrongful death claims in New Jersey
The New Jersey statute of limitations gives interested parties two years from the date of allegedly wrongful death to file a lawsuit. Interested parties are usually close family members like spouses, children, or grandchildren, but wrongful death litigation can also be initiated by people who were not related to the decedent but relied on them for support.
Damages in wrongful death lawsuits
In most personal injury lawsuits, accident victims who prove their arguments by the preponderance of the evidence can be awarded damages to cover their financial expenses and compensate them for noneconomic losses like emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. However, the rules dealing with wrongful death litigation in New Jersey do not allow juries to award nonpecuniary damages. This means the plaintiffs in these cases must limit their claims to economic issues. These issues may include:
• Income the decedent will no longer earn and contribute
• The cost of treating the decedent’s injuries before they passed away
• Funeral expenses and burial costs
• The economic value of services that the decedent is no longer able to provide
Negotiating wrongful death settlements
While New Jersey lawmakers have limited the kind of damages that can be recovered in wrongful death cases, they have not placed a cap on the compensatory damages that can be awarded. This means damages to cover lost income can be significant when the decedent was young and well paid, which is one of the reasons why these cases are usually settled by negotiation and not in court.