When a family loses a loved one, grief and pain follow. When they learn the action or inaction of another party could have prevented their loved one's death, it is common for the family to feel anger while they cope with their loss.
If you are a surviving family member who has lost a loved one due to the negligent behavior of a driver, an employer, or the deliberate action of a third party somewhere in Boston, contact the Boston wrongful death lawyers at Dolman Law Group for a free consultation today.
Experience With Wrongful Death Cases
Massachusetts has specific statutes pertaining to wrongful death claims. Families should seek an attorney who understands these statutes as well as the experience needed to get a successful outcome for the decedent's family.
No law firm can guarantee an outcome in any Bronx wrongful death case, but attorneys like ours, who have a proven track record of success, can help a family feel secure in knowing they are hiring a law firm committed to securing the best possible outcome for victims.
With Dolman Law Group, you know you're getting help from a firm that has dealt with the same legal issues you're facing. We will do everything we can to make the process as easy as possible for you and your family, and our Boston personal injury lawyers work hard to secure the justice and financial compensation you deserve.
Understanding Boston Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil suit brought by the estate of the decedent. The basis of these suits is the same basis in which the person who lost their lives could sue the responsible parties had they survived their injuries.
Per Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 229, § 2, a wrongful death suit can be brought against the at-fault or negligent party if the deceased victim could reasonably have sued for personal injury if they survived.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed after a fatality resulting from:
- Wrongly prescribed or faulty medications
- Car, truck, or motorcycle accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Defective products
- Medical practitioner errors
- Preventable drownings
- Dog attacks
- Deliberate actions such as gunshot wounds or stabbings
In any case where a person died as a result of an injury the victim would not have sustained had it not been for the mistake of a third party, the estate of the decedent has the right to file a civil action in Boston.
Establishing Fault in a Boston Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Using Massachusetts statutes, the estate of the decedent must determine who is at fault for a death. This is one of the many reasons for working with a skilled Boston wrongful death attorney. Liability is at the heart of a wrongful death case. Some parties your attorney may seek to include as responsible include:
Person Directly Responsible for a Loss of Life in Boston
There are numerous instances where only one person may be responsible for someone's death.
Some examples include:
- The driver of an automobile operating recklessly
- The person who wields a weapon which ultimately results in someone's death
- Owner of an animal who attacks a person resulting in the person's death
Persons or Parties Indirectly Responsible for Death in Boston
Numerous third parties can cause wrongful deaths.
Having an attorney who will thoroughly investigate the cause of death and the circumstances which lead up to the death may result in some of the following parties being a defendant in a wrongful death case:
- Owner or bartender who over-served an inebriated person when the cause of death was an accident caused by a drunk driver
- An employer who did not fully vet an employee or failed to professionally train an employee. Liability may be upon the decedent's employer, a truck driver's employer, or a hospital or nursing facility when their employer or sub-contractor had a role in a person's death.
- The manufacturer of a product or part that contributed to the victim's death. This includes drug manufacturers, auto-parts manufacturers, and manufacturers of appliances or tools which malfunction resulting in an injury that ultimately leads to death.
- A property owner who failed to properly protect visitors on their premises can also be liable for wrongful deaths. Drowning accidents, trip or slip and fall accidents, or accidents which result from something falling and striking an unsuspecting person can mean a victim loses their lives.
As you can see, multiple potential plaintiffs can cause a wrongful death. These are only some of the potential parties who may be held responsible. Speak with a Boston attorney who understands wrongful death claims before you decide you do not have the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Damages an Estate May Claim as Part of a Boston Wrongful Death Claim
Wrongful death claims may be filed by the decedent's estate on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate. When the decedent died intestate—without a will—the court may appoint or approve an executor or administrator on behalf of the estate.
Massachusetts G.L. c. 229, § 1 defines the beneficiaries of an estate as the spouse and children of a married decedent. If the person was single, their parents may be beneficiaries. There are other specific rules pertaining to beneficiaries that your lawyer will explain to you.
While some states allow immediate family members to file lawsuits for wrongful death, Massachusetts only allows the executor of the deceased party's estate to file suit. Per Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 190B, § 3-203, the following individuals may be appointed as the executor of the estate:
- An individual nominated in the decedent's will
- The decedent's surviving spouse
- Devisees of the decedent
- Heirs of the decedent
- An appointed public administrator
In all circumstances, the executor of the estate must be over the age of 18, and their appointment must be found in formal court proceedings to be in the best interests of the estate.
Determining the legal rights of family members and close relatives after a wrongful death can be complicated. It is therefore in your best interest to contact a Boston wrongful death lawyer who understands the appropriate Massachusetts laws. A wrongful death attorney will be able to walk you through the process and help you seek the compensation you deserve for your losses.
Under Massachusetts statutes, plaintiffs in a Boston wrongful death lawsuit can file a claim for:
- Lost income to the household – This would include an estimate of the total income the decedent would have earned over their lifetime.
- Lost companionship and guidance – This pertains to the relationship between the decedent and their beneficiaries and may include guidance, advice, companionship, and care of the deceased.
- Expenses incurred as a result of injury and death – Medical costs which the family must pay out of pocket, and reasonable burial and funeral expenses may also be included in a wrongful death lawsuit. Your attorney can explain how to get an accurate accounting.
- Punitive damages – In Boston wrongful death cases, when a case goes to court and the court determines the responsible party's behavior was considered “malicious, willful, wanton, or reckless conduct” or the person responsible was grossly negligent, punitive damages may also be sought by the estate.
The estate administrator or executor should speak with a qualified Boston wrongful death attorney to determine if a wrongful death case should include other areas of compensation.
Getting the Compensation a Victim's Family Deserves for a Boston Wrongful Death
Unfortunately, as with any case, the insurance company will employ various tactics used to escape liability in a Boston wrongful death claim. Keep in mind that the opposing party and their insurance company will try to reduce the amount they have to pay, regardless of the circumstances. They may use a variety of tactics to reduce their own liability and will attempt to manipulate the situation, even if they seem to be compassionate. For this reason, it is best to avoid speaking to the opposing party or their insurance company without consulting with your attorney, as any statements or disclosures can be used to harm your case.
Some of the common ways in which the defendants in these cases may try to escape liability include:
- Expiration of statute of limitations – Massachusetts General Laws c. 229, § 2 allow victim's estates to bring a wrongful death claim for up to three years. However, there is specific language in the statute which reads “… within three years from the date when the deceased's executor or administrator knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the factual basis for the cause of action.” This often results in the defendant claiming the parties have waited too long to file a lawsuit if the parties did not file a lawsuit before the three-year deadline.
- Victim partially to blame for injuries – it is not unusual for a defendant to claim the victim may have been partially responsible for their own death. As your attorney will tell you, while Massachusetts L. c. 231, § 85, explains this, the burden is on the defendant to prove the victim was partially at fault.
- Pointing to other causes of death – in some cases, the defendant may claim the decedent's death may have had other causes versus the actions or inaction of the decedent. This threshold often results in calling expert witnesses to dispute the claims of the decedent's estate.
Boston wrongful death claims are complicated, which is why it helps to have an attorney with experience handling complex cases as soon as possible after you lose a loved one. We know the last thing on your mind is money—a monetary settlement from the responsible parties cannot reverse the loss of a loved one. However, your family should not have to suffer financially as a result of this loss, and we can help make sure you retain your current lifestyle well into the future.
Protecting Yourself Following the Wrongful Death of a Loved One in Boston
There are some things you should be aware of following the loss of a loved one that can help protect you before filing a lawsuit.
Some of these include:
- Use caution discussing issues with insurers – If you contact an insurance company connected to the parties you believe are responsible for the death of your loved one, use extreme caution. In fact, speak with an attorney before reaching out to (or responding to) any insurance company.
- Discussions with the employer of the decedent – If your loved one died on the job, before you talk to their employer, talk to a lawyer. Do not risk jeopardizing your rights by offering any information about your loved one's frame of mind or health before their death.
Someone may reach out to you to extend their condolences. This is true in cases of workplace injuries, car accidents, and deaths resulting in nursing homes or hospitals. Do not offer any information without seeking legal advice.
While you may find this type of outreach comforting during this difficult time, there is a good chance the parties who contact you are “measuring” their liability—trying to determine whether you plan to pursue legal action. Anything you say, no matter how innocuous it may seem could come back to haunt you later in the form of a lesser settlement.
Insurance companies do not make money by paying claims. Whether you lost your loved one in a car accident, truck accident, or workplace accident, an insurer knows you may have the basis for a lawsuit, and they will do everything possible, including offering a quick settlement, to make your claim go away.
These settlements are typically lower than the amount that you would receive from a wrongful death suit, and generally include a clause that prevents you from seeking additional damages. While it may not seem important after losing a loved one, you deserve a settlement that will help you meet your financial responsibilities. Rather than accepting the first offer, consult with a Boston wrongful death attorney to determine how to move forward with your best interests in mind.
In addition, avoid discussing the details of the case with anyone, especially on social media. While you may limit access to your social media accounts, they are still considered public. This means that any information you post can potentially be used to devalue or undermine your wrongful death claim. Emails and other written correspondence can be equally damaging, even if they are only to friends and family. If you are not sure what to discuss with friends or family members, it is a good idea to consult with your wrongful death lawyer. They will be able to help you craft statements that convey the necessary information without anything that can compromise your right to fair compensation.
Boston Wrongful Death FAQs
When you have lost a loved one due to an incident that involved negligence or a deliberate action, it is not uncommon to have questions regarding whether you need to consider hiring a Boston wrongful death lawyer. Here are some frequently asked questions about wrongful death we receive.
What Are Wrongful Death Claims in Boston?
In Massachusetts, a wrongful death claim is a civil process that would be filed by the estate of a decedent if someone lost their life through a crime such as a drunk driving accident, hit-and-run accident, a shooting, or other action.
The beneficiaries of an estate can file wrongful death claims if the victim could have filed a personal injury claim had they lived. Whether filing a personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim, the lawsuit holds the responsible parties financially accountable for the harm they caused.
Does Boston Have Specific Rules Pertaining to Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Yes. The beneficiaries of an estate of the person who lost their life must file wrongful death claims. Massachusetts G.L. c. 229, § 1 name the beneficiaries: A married decedent's beneficiaries are their spouse and children while a single person's beneficiaries are the parents.
Massachusetts laws require the executor of the decedent's estate to handle the wrongful death claim. If there was no will at the time of death (known as intestate), the survivors would be required to file a petition with the court to name an executor or an administrator to file the lawsuit on behalf of the beneficiaries.
Are There Time Restraints Regarding When You Must File a Boston Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Yes. The law states, “within three years from the date when the deceased's executor or administrator knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the factual basis for the cause of action.”
This is important because should have known can be complicated. Speak with an experienced lawyer about this language.
Anytime you believe someone else is responsible for the death of your loved one, the sooner you act to pursue justice, the better. Too often, families wait because of various concerns resulting in the time to act running out before filing a lawsuit.
What Types of Compensation Can Boston Wrongful Death Lawsuits Recover?
Because you are filing a civil lawsuit for wrongful death, the compensation you can seek is similar to that the victim could have sought had they survived.
- Medical costs – The costs of medical care for your loved one before their death. This includes nursing care, in-hospital care including surgery, transportation to the hospital (if by ambulance), and any other associated costs.
- Wages lost – A wrongful death claim estimates the wages they would have made throughout their lives based on their job at the time of their death, tenure, and age at the time of death.
- Loss of companionship – Spouses and children of a decedent lose their guidance, companionship, and care. If appropriate, you should include this non-economic loss in your Boston wrongful death lawsuits.
- Funeral and burial expenses – None of us anticipates having to pay for a funeral or burial until our loved ones are well into their golden years. As part of a wrongful death claim, you can seek compensation for these expenses.
- Punitive damages – In limited cases, there may be punitive damages included in wrongful death claims. This largely depends on the manner of death, what circumstances led up to the death, and other factors that your Boston wrongful death attorney can explain.
You should discuss all potential claims with your lawyer as you might include other economic and non-economic losses, including pensions and property replacement.
Where does the Compensation Come from in Boston Wrongful Ddeath Claims?
The parties liable for the victim's family compensation following their death is dependent in large part on how the person sustained the injury that led to their death. For example, if a person sustained an injury at work, then worker's compensation insurance claims are common. In the case where an employer was negligent either through failure to train another employee or maintain a safe work environment then the employer's business insurance may be wholly or partially responsible for paying a claim.
When a person loses their lives in a traffic accident, there can be various parties who can be held liable. When a person loses their life in a drunk driving accident, the driver may be responsible, but part of the liability may also fall to the restaurant or bar that served them alcohol. Truck accidents may mean the driver's insurance company is responsible for settling a claim. If a driver failed to adhere to standard rules and caused the accident, their employer may be liable. In other cases, a defective piece of equipment on the truck which resulted in an accident may mean the manufacturer or a part may be partially responsible.
Each situation is different, so you should discuss liability with your attorney so you understand who may be held responsible for your loved one's death.
How Is a Boston Wrongful Death Claim Proven?
A Boston wrongful death lawyer will need to demonstrate:
- The responsible party had a responsibility to the decedent
- The responsible party was negligent, careless, or breached an obligation to the decedent
- The responsible party's action, or lack of action was the direct cause of the death of the decedent
- The family suffered a loss due to the death of the decedent
As you can see, the burden of proof is high, but an experienced wrongful death attorney can help you determine what obligation the responsible person had to your loved one and show how they breached that responsibility.
What Happens in a Case Where a Crime Resulted in a Wrongful Death in Boston?
When your loved one loses their life because of a crime, you still have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil and not criminal. The person responsible for someone's death may face criminal charges, such as in the case of a drunk driver, or more serious charges if someone loses their life because of a gunshot wound or wounds caused by another weapon.
You don't need to wait to know if the state will charge the person or find them guilty of a crime to file a wrongful death claim. Different standards of evidence govern criminal versus civil cases. Prosecutors make decisions about whether to file criminal charges, while filing a wrongful death case is up to you and your attorney.
What Happens If the Responsible Party Is Facing Criminal Charges in Boston?
You usually have no obligation to attend or testify at a criminal trial. The prosecutor may ask you to consider doing so, but you do not need to do so unless that is your wish. Speak with your Boston wrongful death lawyer regarding this possibility. Understand the outcome of a criminal trial may not come for months or years after your wrongful death claim settles—if at all.
Do Boston Wrongful Death Claims Wind Up in Jury Trials?
Whether a wrongful death claim goes before a jury is dependent on numerous factors. If your lawyer can reach a reasonable settlement with the insurance company representing the defendant named in your wrongful death claim, there may be no court hearing or trial. However, if the issue does go before the court, either you as the plaintiff or the defendant in the case may request a trial by jury. Your lawyer will explain all the potential options available to you and help you decide which option is best for you and your family.
If the Responsible Party has been Tried and Found Guilty, do I Still Need a Boston Wrongful Death Attorney?
While a guilty plea or guilty verdict in a criminal trial will certainly boost your wrongful death claim, you still have to work with someone who understands Massachusetts wrongful death statutes. You also need someone who will serve as an advocate for the estate of the decedent.
A guilty finding does not always mean that any insurance company involved or the person who was responsible for the death of your loved one will treat you fairly. The bottom line is you want to have a wrongful death lawyer who has experience handling these complex cases to make sure your interests are protected.
How Long does It Take to Settle a Boston Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
These claims can take time. When insurance companies are involved in these claims, factors such as insurance caps, damages which you are seeking, and a willingness to negotiate all play a role in the time it takes to resolve the case. In some cases, this will go quickly, and in other cases, the insurance company may force you to take your case to court. Talk to your attorney about the process before you decide which avenue works best for your needs.
Are Boston Wrongful Death Claims Worth Pursuing?
We understand no amount of money you can get through a lawsuit or a settlement can make up for the tragic loss your family has suffered. However, there is no reason a decedent's family should have to bear the financial burden associated with such a loss. This is why we always advise people to pursue wrongful death claims.
These claims may be for situations where you have lost a loved one due to:
- Medical malpractice
- Traffic accidents
- Workplace accidents
- As a result of dog attacks
- Defective products
- Bad drugs or medical devices
How Can an Estate Afford to Pay an Attorney for a Wrongful Death Claim?
There is always a concern about paying a lawyer to handle wrongful death claims. A family who loses a primary breadwinner is already struggling financially, and they cannot imagine how much it will cost them to hire a lawyer to work for them. We can put this concern to rest for you.
When you initially contact Dolman Law Group regarding a wrongful death claim, we offer a free consultation. During the consultation, we will review the case quickly and offer an opinion about whether you have a case. Should we determine you do have a case, we will then explain your available options.
If you decide to move forward, we take most cases on a contingency basis. This means unless we are successful in obtaining a settlement or judgment for wrongful death, you will not pay any attorney fees.
We understand a wrongful death claim is difficult, and we are here to help answer your questions and help you understand what rights you have under Massachusetts laws when you lose a loved one due to the negligent or deliberate actions of another party.
If you are uncertain about whether you have the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit in Boston, contact Dolman Law Group and allow us to answer any questions you may have. We can help you understand your options, make sure you know what to expect from a wrongful death claim, and help you decide which option is right for your specific situation.
Hire a Boston Wrongful Death Lawyer from Dolman Law Group
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is always difficult. This is an emotional time for you and everyone in your family. If the decedent was also a person whom your family counted on for financial support, you are rightfully concerned about your finances. You probably think because you will have to make some budgetary changes you cannot afford to hire competent legal help. This is where you would be mistaken—in fact, not hiring a Boston wrongful death lawyer could mean you will settle for less compensation.
We believe in fighting aggressively for every client who hires us. Dolman Law Group offers a free consultation, and if you should decide to hire us, in nearly all cases we work on a contingency basis. For you and your family, this means unless we secure a settlement or judgment on your behalf, we will not collect any attorney fees.
We understand you are facing a range of emotions and you may not know where to turn for advice. Our no-obligation, free consultation is designed to make sure you know your rights under Massachusetts laws and to review the circumstances of your loved one's death. We are committed to protecting injured victims' rights, and we are committed to treating family members with the respect and dignity they are due.
If you have lost a loved one and you are uncertain about whether you have the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit, contact Dolman Law Group today. Let us review your case, explain your options, and help you determine what steps to take to hold the responsible parties financially accountable for your loss. Make sure to check out our case results, too, to see what financial awards we've won for clients.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
76 Canal Street, Suite 302
Boston, MA 02114