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The Damages Available In A New Jersey Wrongful Death Action

By Andrew R. Bronsnick

Your loved one has died because of the carelessness or negligence of another person and the emotional upheaval is almost unbearable. But you’re also facing financial challenges…the costs of a funeral and burial services, the loss of the income or wages the deceased provided, and even bills for unreimbursed medical expenses tied to the accident. You have a right to seek compensation for your losses, but what can you expect to recover in a wrongful death action?

The New Jersey wrongful death statutes are intended to compensate qualified survivors for all losses resulting from the accidental death, including:

  • All wages or income the deceased would have provided. Typically, the calculation is a present value lump sum of annual support for the length of time the claimant would have been dependent on the deceased, until retirement age. For a spouse, that is customarily up to retirement, but for minor children, it would be until emancipation, unless extenuating circumstances would prevent the child from becoming self-supporting.
  • Any medical bills incurred by the deceased as a result of the accident, which are not reimbursed by insurance or other sources
  • The loss of care, companionship, guidance and affection of a parent, or the loss of consortium with a spouse
  • The value of any household services the decedent would have providing, from childcare to cleaning and cooking
  • All reasonable funeral and burial expenses

As a general rule, you cannot seek punitive damages in a wrongful death action, and you cannot ask for compensation for emotional distress. A separate lawsuit can be filed, though, to seek damages for emotional distress if you witnessed the death of a loved one.

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