When someone is killed because of the wrongful or negligent act of a person or organization, that person (the decedent) has rights. Because the decedent isn’t alive to enforce those rights, they pass to the decedent’s estate. This means his or her family has rights to recover damages from the person responsible for the accident.
If a New Jersey wrongful death lawsuit is successful, the monetary damages that are awarded or collected in a settlement will be distributed among the decedent’s spouse and heirs. However, the law doesn’t let just anyone bring the wrongful death suit. Instead, only one specific person is allowed to bring the suit.
The proper party to file a wrongful death suit in the state of New Jersey is the personal representative of the estate. This person is determined either by the decedent’s will or by operation of state law.
If the decedent left a will and named an executor for his or her estate in that will, the executor is considered the personal representative and will be the proper party to file the wrongful death claim.
When someone dies without leaving a will, they are legally considered to have “died intestate.” This means that the law, rather than the decedent’s choices, will determine how their estate is managed and divided. In New Jersey, the law’s first choice for administrator of the estate is any surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, or the spouse does give up this duty, the right passes to the decedent’s children.
In cases where there are no children or the children do not want to serve as personal representative to the estate, other heirs and family members can be appointed with the help of a wrongful death attorney. It is important to understand that even though the representative is bringing the suit, the estate is the one recovering damages and they will be distributed to heirs according to the law.
At Seigel Law in Ridgewood, we help grieving families get justice for the loss of their loved one. We know nothing can replace the person that you lost, but we seek to help your family by recovering damages for medical bills, lost wages and burial expenses. To arrange a free consultation with an experienced New Jersey wrongful death attorney, contact us online or call us at 201.444.4000.