Car accidents happen every day, and sometimes accidents are deadly. Losing a loved one to vehicular homicide is extremely difficult, and an attorney can help you take legal action.
Instances of vehicular homicide are legally complex for several reasons. First, the state might assess criminal charges against the other driver. Second, you and your family may file a civil lawsuit against the other driver for compensation. Although family members cannot control criminal cases, a wrongful death lawsuit may help you get the closure and justice your family needs. New Jersey law limits damages in wrongful death lawsuits to pecuniary damages only, but you may recover other damages, including non-economic injuries, in a related survival action. While you and your family might want to bring legal action yourselves, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the administrator or representative of the deceased person’s estate.
Vehicular homicide cases are emotionally challenging, and many families have a hard time coming to terms. Our New Jersey wrongful death lawyers can help you hold the other driver responsible for their actions. For a free case review, call Legal Care New Jersey at (732) 838-9769.
How to Take Legal Action After Losing a Family Member to Vehicular Homicide in New Jersey
Many family members of people who passed away in vehicular homicide accidents want criminal charges assessed against the other driver. Contrary to what many believe, family members or victims cannot control whether someone faces criminal charges. The government and prosecutors might consider the family’s desires when deciding to press charges, but the final decision lies with the state. Defendants might be charged under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-5 for death by auto or vessel or other homicide or manslaughter charges, depending on the circumstances.
You and your family may have control over a wrongful death claim under N.J.S.A. § 2A:31-1. You must file the claim within 2 years of the vehicular homicide, according to N.J.S.A. § 2A:31-3. However, the case may be filed at any time if the defendant is convicted, found not guilty by reason of insanity, or adjudicated delinquent of murder, aggravated manslaughter, or manslaughter. This rule might apply if the defendant in your case was criminally charged with vehicular homicide.
Who Files a Lawsuit for Wrongful Death for Vehicular Homicide in New Jersey?
One important issue to settle before getting your case started is determining who files the case. Under N.J.S.A. § 2A:31-2, a representative or administrator of the deceased person’s estate must be the one to file the case. While some states allow certain immediate family members to file wrongful death lawsuits, New Jersey does not unless they are named the estate representative.
If your loved one had a probated will before the vehicular homicide, the administrator or representative of their estate might be named in the will. Often, people named family members as administrators or representatives. It is not unusual for spouses, parents, adult children, or siblings to be named as the administrator. If your loved one passed away without a will or no administrator or representative is named, a court may appoint an administrator ad prosequendum. This is typically only done if a person dies intestate.
While the administrator or representative of your loved one’s estate files the case, you and your family may still benefit from any compensation awarded by the court. Our Elizabeth wrongful death attorneys can help you and your family get the case filed and fight for the compensation you are entitled to.
Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim for Vehicular Homicide in New Jersey
Lawsuits for the wrongful death of a loved one are notoriously complicated. One of the most complex aspects of the case is damages. Pecuniary damages related to the financial costs of your loved one’s passing must be accurately calculated. Families often want damages related to their grief and suffering, but these damages may only be available under a different kind of lawsuit. Our New Jersey wrongful death lawyers can assist you in your damages calculations.
Under N.J.S.A. § 2A:31-5, plaintiffs may only be awarded pecuniary damages in a wrongful death case. Unfortunately, this means that damages for non-economic losses like pain, suffering, and grief may not be considered in wrongful death cases.
Pecuniary damages involve losses tied to real money spent or lost. Medical bills incurred by your loved one before they passed away are considered pecuniary damages. You can also claim funeral and burial costs, loss of the deceased person’s income, lost services provided by the deceased person, and more.
According to N.J.S.A. § 2A:31-4, damages in a wrongful death case are awarded to the deceased person’s heirs as named in their will, and damages are divided according to the will. This means that if a deceased person’s will leaves 50% of their estate to their surviving spouse and 50% to their surviving child, any damages recovered in a wrongful death claim will be similarly divided.
Although you cannot recover damages related to emotional suffering in a wrongful death case, you may claim such damages in a survival action under N.J.S.A. § 2A:15-3. Under this law, you can claim the damages that the deceased person could have claimed themselves had they survived. This means you can claim damages related to non-economic injuries (e.g., pain and suffering) your loved one experienced before they passed away.
In vehicular homicide cases, non-economic damages may be quite high, especially if your loved one did not pass away immediately. Car crashes can leave victims with severe and painful injuries. The physical pain and emotional trauma your loved one went through before passing away might have been immense. You can claim those damages in a survival action related to your wrongful death case. Our Lakewood personal injury lawyers can help you claim these damages in a survival action related to your loved one’s vehicular homicide case.
Call Our New Jersey Wrongful Death Attorneys if You Lost a Loved One to Vehicular Homicide
Families should not have to endure the painful loss of a loved one to vehicular homicide without some justice and closure. Our Edison personal injury lawyers can help you take legal action to get justice and compensation. For a free case review, call Legal Care New Jersey at (732) 838-9769.