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Wrongful Death – The Basics

By Andrew R. Bronsnick

In the aftermath of a tragic accident, where a loved one has died, you can be paralyzed by grief and emotion. You know that you have a right to seek compensation for your losses, but you don’t know what your rights or how to initiate the process.

Understanding When You Have A Wrongful Death Claim


A wrongful death claim is designed to compensate qualified parties for losses suffered when another person dies because of the carelessness, negligence or other wrongful conduct of a third party. The wrongful acts must have been such as to give rise to a personal injury claim, had the person survived. Accordingly, in New Jersey, a wrongful death complaint is always filed by an executor or administrator on behalf of the decedent’s estate, rather than on behalf of any surviving family members or dependents.

When Must A Wrongful Death Action Be Filed?


There’s no requirement that you wait any period of time before filing a wrongful death action, but you must prepare and file any complaint in a court of law within two years of the date of death.

Who Can Be Held Liable For A Wrongful Death?


In most instances, a wrongful death action is based on a legal theory of negligence. Negligence requires that you show that the defendant failed to meet (the legal term is “breached”) the duty to use a certain standard of care. Any party who’s failure to act reasonably caused injury can be sued. Common examples include:

  • Product manufacturers
  • Motor vehicle operators
  • Owners of residential or commercial property
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