Fatal Car Accidents Require an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer. Choose a Car Accident Attorney you can trust. Choose Parker Scheer LLP.
The sudden and unexpected death of a person in a car accident is a tragedy. Depending on the circumstances involved in the crash, the family of the decedent may learn little information about the cause of the crash until after the investigation is complete. Often the Massachusetts State Police Accident Reconstruction Unit is dispatched to perform reconstruction to determine how the accident occurred and whether criminal charges are warranted.
There is a type of civil case called a wrongful death case that can be brought against the responsible party by the victim’s family. A wrongful death case holds the person liable for the death and compensates the decedent’s estate accordingly for specified damages. These damages can be found in the Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 229, section 2 and section 6, which provides for the following:
- Reasonable Expected Net Income: Not to be confused with lost earnings or a loss of one’s earning capability; this is calculated by starting with the victim’s projected earnings for the remainder of his expected career. Next, deductions are made to find the amount of said earnings the beneficiary would have received had the decedent survived. It is important to note that the surviving beneficiaries are only entitled to the amounts the decedent would have given them or used for their personal benefit if the accident had not occurred. Juries in these cases should consider the life expectancies for both the victim and the beneficiaries.
- Consortium-Type Damages: This statute also enumerates elements that describe the many aspects of relationships within families. These elements provide monetary compensation for the lost relationships the decedent had with each beneficiary. Because the statute is purely compensatory and not punitive in nature, Massachusetts courts distinguish the fact that the loss often differs between the various beneficiaries due to the type of relationship he and the decedent shared.
- Conscious Pain and Suffering: Under General Laws c. 229, § 6, damages can be recovered for the time between the injury and death of the decedent as compensation for conscious pain and suffering. A claim under § 6 is, as it’s core, what the defendant could have claimed for their injuries had they survived the accident. In order to recover the involved damages, the plaintiff has to use a preponderance of the evidence to show that the movement, acts, or appearance of the victim after the injury were the product of, or symptomatic of, the decedent’s conscious effort or suffering.
- Medical Expenses: Massachusetts’ law states that the victim’s estate can recover any and all reasonable medical expenses arising from the decedent’s injuries that resulting from the defendant’s negligence. Although there is no specific statement about medical expenses within the wrongful death statute itself, a claim for medical expenses will usually last after the death of the injured person and is generally considered recoverable during a wrongful death action.
- Punitive Damages: Under General Laws c. 229, § 2, punitive damages totaling $5,000 minimum when the death resulted from “the malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct or by the gross negligence of the defendant” can be recovered. However, this benchmark is quite hard for the plaintiff to attain. In order to demonstrate that the conduct was in fact malicious, willful, or wanton, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the defendant’s actions are beyond simply gross or culpable negligence, and that they amount to a quasi-criminal activity that was intentionally committed with the awareness it would likely result in severe injury. If the plaintiff is able to meet this burden of proof, then there is no cap placed on the damages that can be awarded.
Do You Need A Car Accident Lawyer?
If you have suffered an injury in an auto accident due to the other car driver’s negligence, contact us for a free confidential case review and receive a response within hours, or call (617) 886-0500 . If you need a car accident lawyer outside of Massachusetts, contact us for a referral.