In the state of New Jersey, as in other states, when someone's death is the result of liability on the part of another, there is the possibility of a wrongful death lawsuit. Each state determines its own regulations regarding what types of damages are possible in these cases.
Legislators in New Jersey are looking at widening the options concerning damages available to plaintiffs who file a wrongful death lawsuit. This possible expansion could make it easier for grieving families to seek the specific types of damages that pertain to their case, which is not possible under the current law.
Current wrongful death statutes in New Jersey
Under the current law in New Jersey, damages for wrongful death are limited to what are known as pecuniary damages. This means the damages have to be quantified in monetary terms. For example, if a spouse dies via wrongful death, damages count as the quantifiable financial loss that the spouse's death will have on the remaining spouse.
However, sometimes there are cases in which a death does not directly result in financial damages. One example of this is when a small child dies. Given that the child's death does not necessarily bring financial damages, because the child was not a contributing economic provider to the household, the current law does not address how to compensate the family's loss.
Possible expansion of damages
Wrongful death cases fall under personal injury law, which deals with injuries or death resulting from negligence or recklessness. Therefore, plaintiffs who wish to file a claim for wrongful death should consult with a personal injury attorney who works with these types of cases. The possible expanded range of damages under Senate bill S-1766, which the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend passage, would allow recovery for things such as mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society and loss of companionship.