What Damages are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Personal Injury • November 17, 2021

Losing a loved one is one the most tragic situations we can ever experience. If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or an intentional act, it’s very possible that they may be held legally responsible and you might be entitled to monetary damages. If you believe you have a wrongful death claim, it’s important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to assist you with the next steps you need to take. 


What are Damages?

In a wrongful death claim, or any civil lawsuit, damages refers to the monetary compensation that a person is entitled to receive from the defendant. Damages can be the result of a trial or a settlement if the defendant agrees to offer an amount of money that seems reasonable to accept in lieu of a trial. The purpose of damages is for the plaintiff to receive monetary compensation for their loss, and in some cases, damages can be awarded as a way to punish the defendant. 


Types of Damages – Wrongful Death Act

In New Jersey, there are different types of damages that you may be able to recover in a wrongful death suit based on the Wrongful Death Act. Some of the most common damages you can recover include the following:

  • Compensation for the loss of the decedent’s income or financial support. This entails calculating how much the decedent was likely to earn over the course of their lifetime, including adjustments that are made for promotions, raises, and inflation. 
  • Burial expenses and funeral costs
  • Any medical expenses related to your loved one’s death
  • Loss of companionship 
  • If you lost a spouse and had children together, you can recover damages for the child’s loss of parental guidance and support 
  • Loss of spousal relations if applicable 
  • Any other expenses that arise out of the incident. For example, if the wrongful death occurred as a result of a car accident, you can recover compensation in order to pay for any automobile repairs or damaged property.

An important note is that a surviving loved one cannot recover compensation for their loved one’s pain and suffering. These aren’t losses that the survivor personally experienced, so they are not recoverable in a typical wrongful death lawsuit.


Survival Statute

When filing a wrongful death suit, there’s no way to recover compensation for your loved one’s pain and suffering prior to when they passed away, but there is another statute in place that may still allow compensation to be recovered from the defendant. The Survival Statute allows the appropriate people to recover the damages that the victim would have been able to claim due to the injuries they suffered in the accident had they not passed away. This compensation doesn’t go to the victim’s family or the person filing the lawsuit, rather it is paid into the decedent’s estate. This typically includes damages for physical pain and suffering, any disability they might’ve endured, permanent injuries, lost earning capacity, and the loss of their enjoyment of life. 


Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are not awarded as a way to make the plaintiff whole in the same way that the other types of damages are awarded. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant’s behavior and for the damages to act as a deterrent to anyone continuing to engage in the type of behavior that caused the death. However, it’s quite rare for punitive damages to be awarded in a New Jersey wrongful death suit. These damages are only awarded when the defendant’s behavior was extremely reckless or was ruled to be an intentional act. 

No Damage Caps

Many states put caps on the amount of damages a person can recover in a wrongful death case or in any other type of civil lawsuit. In New Jersey, there is no limit to how much of an award a plaintiff can recover in a wrongful death claim. 

Wrongful death suits can be complicated to file and to understand, so when you need legal advice and assistance with a wrongful death claim, it’s imperative to contact an experienced Jersey City wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.