New Jersey provides two forms of relief when someone is killed due to the negligence or wrongful act of another person or organization. The first is known as a survival suit. The purpose of this action is to keep the dead person’s (decedent’s) rights alive when he or she dies. If the decedent would have been able to bring a personal injury lawsuit had they survived, they (and their estate) shouldn’t lose that right solely because the injuries were severe enough to cause death.
The law allows for the award of certain damages in a survival action. These damages are intended to compensate the estate for losses that the decedent suffered before death, including:
- Hospital bills and medical costs
- Lost wages
- Disability and impairment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
These damages are based solely on what the accident victim experienced before death. The amounts awarded can vary drastically depending on how long the decedent survived after the initial injury. Any money recovered becomes part of the estate.
In most cases, the representative of the estate and the family’s attorney will bring the survival claim at the same time that they bring a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is intended to compensate family members who have lost a loved one. The money from this type of claim is divided amongst family members directly. It does not become part of the estate.
Spouses, children and other dependents may be entitled to damages in a wrongful death case. These damages are intended to compensate those family members for their own losses. Wrongful death damages include:
- Reasonable burial and funeral expenses
- Lost wages and lost financial support
- Loss of guidance
- Lost household services (chores and childcare)
It is important to remember that wrongful death actions must generally be brought within two years of the date of death. It is essential that you contact an attorney much earlier to give them time to prepare the case fully.
When you need an attorney who will treat your family with compassion and care, contact Seigel Law. Our Bergen County attorneys skillfully represent families who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. To learn more about how we can help or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 201.444.4000 or contact us online.