Three years from the date of death

Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of personal injury claim in which the injured victim died as a result of an injury. Unlike the three-year personal injury statute of limitation time period, which begins running on the date of the injury, the wrongful death statute of limitation in Massachusetts is three years from the date of death, which means you must file a wrongful death claim within three years after your loved one’s death or the claim is barred forever.

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Who can file a claim?

The personal representative of your deceased loved one’s estate is the proper person to serve as the plaintiff in a wrongful death action. The personal representative’s title for estate purposes depends on whether the decedent left a will. If so, then the executor (or executrix) named in the will is the personal representative. If the decedent did not leave a will, then a family member or other interested party must petition the probate court for letters of administration. In cases where the decedent did not leave a will, the personal representative is referred to as the administrator of the estate. The following facts apply:

  • Only a personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
  • An executor is a personal representative appointed in a will and may be one of several co-executors.
  • An administrator is a personal representative appointed by a court.
  • An estate must have only one type of personal representative.

Administrators and executors are personal representatives of an estate, and both perform similar estate management functions. The only difference is how they came to hold the position.

The personal representative’s attorney must prove that the decedent died in a fatal accident or as a result of injuries incurred because of the negligence or recklessness of another person or business. The representative must also prove that the loss had a negative financial impact on your loved one’s estate, such as medical and burial expenses and lost future earnings.

What happens to the money?

Damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit belong to your loved one’s estate and must be distributed according to the deceased’s will, if any, or according to the laws of intestate distribution if there wasn’t a will.

Wrongful death damage limits

Some states limit the compensation a jury can award in a wrongful death case. Massachusetts has a cap of $500,000 on all noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Noneconomic damages include the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Punitive damages

In addition, international treaties limit recovery amounts for relatives of people killed on airlines between nations.

Contact us to arrange a free consultation

Thornton Law Firm LLP provides outstanding legal representation throughout the course of your wrongful death claim. We offer free consultations and work on a contingency-fee basis, so you don’t pay if we don’t win your case. Call 1-888-491-9726 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation. Thornton Law Firm LLP is here when you need us most.