Are wrongful death lawsuits allowed in Massachusetts?

On Behalf of | Aug 10, 2023 | Personal Injury

If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful act, you may wonder if you can file a lawsuit to seek justice and compensation for your loss. The answer is yes, but only under certain conditions and with certain limitations.

Wrongful death lawsuit

Unlike a criminal case, where the state prosecutes the defendant for a crime, a wrongful death lawsuit is brought by the family of the deceased person. The purpose of the lawsuit is to recover damages for medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, loss of companionship and emotional distress.

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit

In Massachusetts, only the executor or personal representative of the deceased’s estate has the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If a representative was not appointed in the deceased’s will, the probate court would appoint one. The representative acts on behalf of the estate and the beneficiaries, who are usually the spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc. of the deceased person.

Requirements for a wrongful death lawsuit

Survivors can file a wrongful death lawsuit based on various claims. For example, one can show that a company or person caused the death of another by failing to exercise reasonable care (Negligence).

Alternatively, one may show a malicious, willful, wanton or reckless act or gross negligence (punitive damages may be available in these cases). Finally, one can also try to establish a breach of warranty.

In other words, a wrongful death claim can arise when one person dies due to the fault of another person or entity. This includes a negligence-based incident, such as car accidents; medical negligence and malpractice, an intentional act, including a crime, etc.

Under Massachusetts law, a  family members can file a wrongful death claim in any situation where, if alive. their loved one could have filed a personal injury lawsuit.

Time limit for filing a wrongful death lawsuit

The person or entity eligible to file the lawsuit must do so within three years of the date of death, or within three years of the date when they first knew or should have known that a wrongful death claim was available. If a wrongful death claim is not filed within this period, it will be barred by law and cannot be pursued.



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