What Rights Do My Survivors Have in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

By Greg Kohn

Have you lost a loved one in New Jersey due to someone else’s negligence or intentional acts? If so, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party.  

Wrongful death lawsuits in New Jersey offer a decedent’s survivors legal recourse and an opportunity to recover damages resulting from their loved one’s death. Experienced New Jersey wrongful death attorneys help survivors understand their rights in a wrongful death lawsuit and how to pursue those rights under the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act. 

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in New Jersey 

Persons surviving the loss of someone by wrongful death may file a claim for damages under New Jersey’s Wrongful Death Act but are governed by specific parameters.

New Jersey law requires that a representative of the estate, generally an administrator or executor, file the wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent’s survivors. Cases involving minor children will be filed by a court-appointed guardian.

Wrongful death actions may be brought on behalf of a decedent’s surviving heirs who would otherwise be entitled to any intestate personal property; including any person dependent on the decedent at the time of the decedent’s death. 

The priority of heirs:

  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Dependents of the decedent
  • Siblings and other heirs

In cases where there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent, siblings and others who can prove dependency may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim. 

Finally, a New Jersey wrongful death claim must be filed within two years from the date of the decedent’s death to avoid being time-barred from New Jersey courts. 

What Damages Are Recoverable in a New Jersey Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In New Jersey, a decedent’s surviving family and dependents can win damages for pecuniary losses resulting from the decedent’s death. Pecuniary losses are monetary losses that include:

  • Lost wages or future income
  • Medical or funeral expenses
  • Replacement of services

Recovered damages are explicitly separate from the decedent’s estate. They are distributed solely among the parties in interest to the wrongful death lawsuit. Further, recovered damages are distributed proportionally among the parties to the extent of their dependence on the decedent. 

It is important to note that despite recent legislative efforts, damages for mental anguish, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and loss of society are not recoverable under New Jersey’s Wrongful Death Act. Survivors seeking compensation for non-financial losses must file a separate tort action for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Why You Need a New Jersey Wrongful Death Attorney

If your family has lost a loved one in New Jersey due to wrongful death, you need the help of an experienced New Jersey wrongful death attorney. Wrongful death cases in New Jersey are mired in legal complexity and bound by a two-year statute of limitations. 

In your time of grief and healing, time can pass quickly, and it’s essential you have one of our knowledgeable and skilled attorneys on your side. 

Contact our New Jersey office today for a comprehensive and confidential case review with one of our experienced wrongful death attorneys. 

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.