Jersey City Wrongful Death Lawyers
Jersey City Wrongful Death Lawyers
In old American common law, all of a person’s legal claims died with them. Unfortunately, this created a contradiction where the victim’s family received no compensation for their loved one’s fatal injuries. It also meant that punitive damages were impossible to impose upon the at-fault party, essentially letting them go scot-free in civil courts after negligently causing someone’s death.
Along with other states, New Jersey created two legal claims to address this injustice: wrongful death and survival claims. These are meant to make up for the losses suffered by the victim and their family members due to the at-fault party’s actions.
Jersey City wrongful death lawyers from Garces, Grabler & LeBrocq have experience fighting for the family members of those who died due to someone else’s actions. We understand the pain and losses you have endured, and we provide determined and professional representation in our battle for justice.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
The decedent’s family can bring a wrongful death and/or survival claim when a person or business causes an injury, disease, or condition that results in the victim’s death.
The death must result from an act or circumstance that would have given the deceased victim a legal claim, including:
● Negligent acts, such as drunk driving
● Intentional acts, such as a battery or homicide
● Defective product use
● Dog bites or animal attacks
● Toxic exposures
A wrongful death claim allows the deceased person’s executor or administrator to recover compensation for financial losses on behalf of the victim’s surviving family members.
On the other hand, a survival claim allows the executor or administrator to recover compensation for financial losses and distress experienced by the victim before death. It is essentially the lawsuit the victim would have filed if they had lived. This compensation becomes part of the deceased’s estate and is distributed among the appropriate heir(s).
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
Some types of wrongful death claims include the following:
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Sadly, many of these deaths are preventable. Several driving errors can cause traffic deaths, including:
● Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
● Distracted driving
● Disobeying stop signs or red lights
● Failing to yield to pedestrians or cyclists at crosswalks
When an attorney pursues a wrongful death or survival claim based on a traffic crash, they will typically rely on legal concepts of negligence or recklessness. After all, drivers usually do not intend to hit a victim, but they can be held liable when driving carelessly or without regard to the safety of others. This allows attorneys to pursue compensation by proving that the driver failed to exercise reasonable care.
A negligence claim requires proof of up to five elements:
● Duty of care
● Breach of duty
● Proximate causation
● Actual causation
In a motor vehicle case, the legal duty comes from the obligation of a driver to travel safely and according to road rules and customs. A breach of duty happens when drivers fail to drive with this aforementioned care. The evidence for the breach can come from a traffic ticket or road cameras. It can also come from eyewitness testimony from other drivers or even passengers who survived the crash.
Then, the attorney must prove at least a proximate causal link between the negligent action and your loved one’s death. This means that the death must have been a natural and logical result of the at-fault party’s negligence.
It can also mean that the action in question could be reasonably expected to lead to injury or death. This does not mean the at-fault party had to foresee the death. Rather, it means that a reasonable person could have foreseen that someone might die due to the at-fault party’s actions.
Finally, it must be shown that the victim suffered losses or harm. This can be self-evident but might also come into question if the at-fault party argues that the death was completely unrelated to the incident.
Premise liability injuries can also result in death and are usually tied to negligence as well. Hazardous conditions on someone else’s property that might lead to such an incident can include:
● Slippery floors
● Falling objects
● Broken stairs or railings
● Poor lighting
● Inadequate security
● Exposed or damaged electrical wires
When a property owner, tenant, or manager fails to reasonably find and fix these hazards, visitors can suffer fatal injuries.
Whether the property owner is liable can depend on several things, such as:
● Whether they conducted reasonable inspections of the property
● How long they knew about the hazard
● Whether they warned guests of the hazardous conditions
● What steps they took to fix it
If a lawyer can prove that a property owner, tenant, or manager failed to exercise reasonable care, it’s possible to recover compensation for a death caused by a hazardous condition.
Wrongful death claims are not limited to accidental deaths. An executor can also pursue wrongful death and survival claims against anyone whose intentional actions caused your loved one’s death.
This claim is different from a criminal prosecution. In a criminal case, prosecutors must prove the person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means jurors can only vote to convict if they have no reasonable questions about the accused person’s involvement. If the jurors vote to convict, the accused person goes to jail.
In a wrongful death or survival case, Jersey City wrongful death lawyers only need to prove liability by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the at-fault party can be held liable as long as they were more likely than not to have caused the death. If they’re found liable, they must pay damages to the estate.
To prove liability, a wrongful death lawyer can include claims for both negligent and intentional acts. For example, a case involving death due to a bar fight might allege:
● Negligence for unreasonably ignoring the risk of killing the victim
● Battery for intentionally making harmful contact with the victim
Bear in mind that an attorney can also pursue additional claims against other parties. In the bar fight example, the lawyer might also sue the bar for negligence for failing to hire enough bouncers to stop the fight or for serving the attacker too much alcohol.
New Jersey law imposes strict liability on product manufacturers for deaths caused by defective products. Strict liability means that the lawyer does not need to prove the manufacturer intended, knew about, or even ignored a defect. Instead, the manufacturer bears liability simply by releasing a defective product into the marketplace.
Product defects take three forms:
● Design defects that make the product unsafe under all uses
● Manufacturing defects that make products unsafe when made a certain way
● Warning defects for instructions that fail to explain the product’s safe uses
Therefore, to establish a product liability claim, a lawyer needs to prove that:
● The product had a defect
● The defect existed when it left the manufacturer
● The product’s defect caused the victim’s death
For example, consider a vehicle that has a defective airbag inflator. If it explodes unexpectedly and causes a driver to crash, the estate might file a wrongful death claim against the vehicle manufacturer and the airbag inflator manufacturer.
New Jersey law imposes strict liability for dog bite injuries. An attorney only needs to prove that:
● The bite occurred
● The deceased victim did not provoke the dog
● The victim was bit while lawfully on public or private property
This means that a wrongful death lawyer does not need to prove that the dog had a reputation for viciousness or that the owner was negligent in restraining it.
A lawyer has a few options for deaths caused by toxic substances. They could pursue a wrongful death claim against the manufacturer for releasing a dangerously defective product. They can also assert that the manufacturer failed to instruct users how to use the product safely.
Toxic exposures might also lead to negligence claims. For example, a landlord who unreasonably failed to remove toxic materials from a building might be liable if tenants die from exposure.
Exposure to toxic substances can cause death gradually. There may even be some disagreement over whether the toxic substance caused the death. As a result, the lawyer may need to hire expert witnesses to analyze the cause of death and render an opinion about whether it resulted from the at-fault party’s products or actions.
Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim
New Jersey’s wrongful death and survival statutes spell out certain damages the executor can seek. To note, this includes the family’s financial losses from their loved one’s death, but it does not include emotional distress caused by the death.
As a result, these damages include:
The executor can seek compensation for the money the victim would have contributed to the family. This usually includes the victim’s wages and the value of any fringe benefits such as health insurance. According to New Jersey’s official jury instructions, this amount covers the after-tax value that the family would have received for the victim’s expected lifetime.
Lost Family Benefits
The claim can also include the value of the financial value of the victim’s presence in the family members’ lives. Again, this doesn’t refer to any emotional value. Instead, it refers to concrete financial losses like the monetary value of the victim’s companionship, advice, and mentorship. It also covers the value of the inheritance the family members lost due to the victim’s early death.
Another aspect of the victim’s financial contributions covers the services they rendered to the family. If the decedent provided services like babysitting, auto repair, cooking, and cleaning, the claim could include the cost of replacing these services.
Hospitals, doctors, and mortuaries often look to family members to pay their bills. Thankfully, the executor can also recover any amounts paid by the family for medical bills, funeral expenses, and burial costs.
Compensation in a Survival Claim
The damages in a survival claim include the losses the victim suffered between their fatal injury and their death. Examples of these damages include:
● Medical bills paid by the victim
● Pain and suffering experienced by the victim from the fatal injury
Therefore, the compensation in a survival claim essentially covers what the victim could have recovered had they survived. This claim can include emotional distress experienced by the deceased person, but like a wrongful death claim, it cannot include the emotional distress of the family members.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in New Jersey?
New Jersey requires the deceased person’s executor or administrator to file the wrongful death claim. The executor is named in a deceased person’s will, but if the victim dies without a will, a probate court appoints an administrator. In either case, this person is responsible for hiring a lawyer and managing the claim on behalf of the estate.
The main difference between wrongful death and survival claims is where the damages go. In a wrongful death claim, a judge divides the damages among the victim’s family members based on New Jersey inheritance law. While dividing the money, the judge disregards the victim’s will and divides the money as if they had no will. Thus, someone can get a share of wrongful death damages even if they were left out of the victim’s will.
On the other hand, damages from a survival claim become part of the victim’s estate. Therefore, they’re divided according to the person’s will, and anyone left out of the will won’t receive a share of the damages.
What Is My Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Jersey City?
Time limits for any type of claim are tricky. In the case of wrongful death and survival claims, executors and administrators must be mindful not to delay too long because most claims expire only two years after the death. However, this deadline may not always apply, and estates may be beholden to certain other restrictions that complicate their timetable when filing a suit.
That’s why it’s vital to consult a Jersey City wrongful death attorney from Garces, Grabler & LeBrocq as quickly as possible. Missing any relevant deadlines can result in a dismissal of any case you might have had, but a lawyer can analyze your situation to make sure you do not miss any critical dates.
Why Hire GGL?
The team at Garces, Grabler & LeBrocq has provided knowledgeable, aggressive, and professional representation in personal injury and wrongful death cases since 1991. Our Jersey City wrongful death lawyers have recovered over $1 billion in compensation for our clients.
We know the pain and stress that comes with losing a family member. That’s why we treat every client as if they were part of our family, guiding them through the complexities of the legal system with grace and skill. Contact us online or call 1-800-923-3456 to schedule a free consultation today.