When a negligent driver causes a crash that leaves another party injured, he can be held liable for damages. These damages include the injured party’s medical expenses and the wages lost while recovering from the accident.
But what happens if the crash victim dies from his injuries? Is the negligent driver off the hook for paying damages? Under Massachusetts civil law, he is not. Surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim.
When a Personal Injury Claim Becomes a Wrongful Death Case
It’s always tragic when someone is killed in a car crash, but not every fatality is grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. If the driver who caused the crash acted in a negligent or careless manner by speeding, texting, and driving, driving while intoxicated, or breaking another traffic law, he could be found responsible for the losses caused by the death of the victim.
While he may also be charged in criminal court, a wrongful death claim is a civil matter that will be handled in a separate proceeding.
Damages That May Be Awarded in a Massachusetts Wrongful Death Claim
If a driver is found to be negligent in the fatal crash, a claim can be made on his auto insurance policy for the following types of damages:
- Any medical costs incurred by the deceased between the accident and the time of death
- The value of the income the deceased would have earned in his lifetime
- The care, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel, and advice the deceased would have provided to family members
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
Non-economic damages such as care and companionship are difficult to place a value on, but an experienced wrongful death attorney will have the tools to do so. Likewise, an attorney will consult financial experts when calculating future earning potential.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Massachusetts?
Under Massachusetts law, only the executor or administrator of an estate can file a wrongful death claim. This is the person named as the representative in the deceased’s will. While the representative files the claim, damages are awarded to immediate family members at the court’s discretion. If the deceased didn't have a will, the court will name a representative—often the surviving spouse or parent.
You have only three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim in Massachusetts.
If Your Loved One Was Killed in a Car Crash, We're the Lawyers You Need
At Mahaney & Pappas, LLP, we offer free consultations and free case evaluations. We understand how hard it is to lose a loved one in a senseless accident, and you can count on us to handle your wrongful death claim with compassion. Contact us today to discuss your legal options.