According to multiple news reports, a woman and a child were killed in Chester, New Jersey, when a tractor-trailer smashed into an SUV driven by a third person. The accident is still being investigated by law enforcement officials, but it appears that the truck driver was at fault. If that proves to be the case, the injured SUV driver may have a claim for medical expenses, lost wages, and permanent injuries. But, what about the woman and the child who were killed?
Many decades ago, people who died in motor vehicle accidents as the result of another's negligent acts had no claim against the party at fault because their cause of action was deemed to have died when they did. As industrialization spread across America, state legislatures began to realize the unfairness of this rule, and virtually all of them, including the New Jersey Legislature, passed laws giving survivors the right to sue negligent parties to recover damages caused by the wrongful death of the family member. The law states that any person whose wrongful act causes the death of another shall be liable for damages caused by the death.
The amount of allowable damages includes pecuniary injuries resulting from the death, including funeral and medical expenses. Pecuniary injuries usually include loss of financial support, especially if the decedent was the family breadwinner. All amounts recovered must be divided fairly among the victim's heirs. The court retains the power to ensure that the distributions are fair.
Anyone who has lost a family member as the result of another person's negligence may wish to explore the possibility of commencing a wrongful death action. A lawyer who handles personal injury and automobile accident cases can provide advice on the strength of the case and the likelihood of recovering damages for loss of financial support.