Massachusetts Legal Blog

Personal Injury: What is Wrongful Death?

Losing a loved one is one of the worst things imaginable. But what if their death was the result of the negligence of another individual or entity? Under Massachusetts law, you may be able to sue for damages under a wrongful death action. But, what is “wrongful death?”

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is the legal term given to a civil lawsuit filed for recovering damages due to the death of a family member that was at the hands of another person. Wrongful deaths generally refer to any misconduct by an individual or company that resulted in another person’s death.

Massachusetts General Laws cover wrongful death under Chapter 229, Section 2:

“A person who (1) by his negligence causes the death of a person, or (2) by willful, wanton or reckless act causes the death of a person under such circumstances that the deceased could have recovered damages for personal injuries if his death had not resulted, or (3) operates a common carrier of passengers and by his negligence causes the death of a passenger, or (4) operates a common carrier of passengers and by his willful, wanton or reckless act causes the death of a passenger under such circumstances that the deceased could have recovered damages for personal injuries if his death had not resulted, or (5) is responsible for a breach of warranty arising under Article 2 of chapter one hundred and six which results in injury to a person that causes death, shall be liable in damages.

Wrongful Death Damages

Under Massachusetts state law, damages for the wrongful death of a loved one may be available to compensate for:

  • Any reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
  • The care, comfort, companionship, counsel, guidance or advice the deceased individual would have provided loved ones.
  • Any income which the deceased would have been expected to earn during their lifetime.

A court may also award punitive damages. Under Massachusetts state law, punitive damages are awarded only in cases where the gross negligence of a defendant resulted in an individual’s death. Gross negligence is defined as someone (either an individual person or a corporation) having acted with complete and total disregard for human life.

The threshold for proving that someone acted with disregard for human life is a very difficult one to achieve. As such, judges and juries rarely award punitive damages in Massachusetts. If punitive damages are awarded, they are usually granted in addition to any actual damages.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

Under state law, the statute of limitations for the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit is three years from the date of death, or three years from the time that the executor of the deceased’s estate first learned of – or would reasonably have been expected to have learned of – the availability of a wrongful death claim.

Because of the time-sensitive nature of wrongful death claims, if you feel the death of a loved one was a result of the negligence of another party, you should contact an experienced Massachusetts wrongful death attorney right away.

At Shapiro Law, our experienced and knowledgeable team of attorneys have the know-how and skills to get you the compensation you deserve.  At Shapiro Law, we deal with all of our clients on a personal level, as we know and understand the pain and suffering they are going through. Unlike other law firms, at Shapiro Law you aren’t just another case number – you are our client. Give us a call today at 339-298-2300 for a free, no-obligation consultation.