Massachusetts Wrongful Death Law Damages
The estate of a decedent in Massachusetts will go to the beneficiaries of the will, or, if there is no will, according to law – spouse (per formula if there are children), children, parents, and then to next of kin.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 229, Section 2 gives specific parameters for damages in wrongful death cases.
Damages are for “reasonably expected net income” which looks at the decedents income age, life expectancy, and how that income would have benefited his or her beneficiaries. The estate is also entitled to “services, protection, care, assistance, society, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel, and advice of the decedent”
Second, the estate of the decedent is entitled to funeral and burial expenses. Note, law in a motor vehicle wrongful death case Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, will cover this as well. And often much quicker.
Third, an additional measure of damages, punitive damages, may be provided to the decedent’s estate if there is a finding of “malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct” of the defendant. Such a finding requires significant work and preparation by experienced attorneys.
Fourth, there is a “common carrier” section of the law which would apply to bus, train or other such carriers. It mirrors other parts of the wrongful death law; but note that there are other laws that may come into play here, especially if the “carrier” was state or city owned.
Under a different section of the Law, the estate may file a claim for conscious pain and suffering. This is area of the law in which there can be much disagreement. The insurance companies will look for irrefutable testimony by witnesses before they will honor this part of a claim.
Insurance Companies and Wrongful Death
Insurance companies doing business in Massachusetts investigate wrongful death cases like other injury cases and they defend against them just as vigorously as they can. While an adjuster or insurance defense attorney may seem sympathetic and therefore more generous, the decision makers at the company will look at the case like any other. Remember, if there was no conscious pain and suffering of the decedent, they view wrongful death cases as simply paying the “specials” such as lost earnings. And they expect a discount.
What is My Family’s Wrongful Death Case Worth?
The good news in Massachusetts is that the jury system that functions quite well. Superior Court judges take wrongful death cases very seriously. And the law is sound. Thus, a wrongful death case us worth what the jury will award. Insurance companies tailor their offers of settlement to what a jury would award. Getting such a significant case to be prepared for a jury, or to an insurance company that needs to see what would be presented to a jury, requires experienced attorneys.
Retain Experienced Wrongful Death Attorneys
The Law Office of Neil Burns has successfully resolved wrongful death cases for over 30 years. The process is complex. An estate needs to be set up and reporting to the appropriate Probate Court is mandatory. You will need to work with an experienced personal injury attorney; no matter how clear you think liability looks, insurance companies will, as stated above, fight and force you to prove your case before they pay, notwithstanding the death of your loved ones.
Note that all insurance policies are limited. While some are very high and sufficient to cover almost any jury award, many insurance policies are not. Personal assets are often contemplated; however, they are often hard to attach in Massachusetts. We have experience with collecting on personal assets.