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What damages may be sought in a wrongful death suit?

The death of a loved one can be one of the most painful experiences a person in New Jersey can have in their life. However, when a person's life is taken by the negligent or reckless actions of another, their survivors' grief can be especially difficult to cope with, given the fact that it is likely that their loved one's death need never have happened if the responsible party had upheld their duty of care. When this happens, the victim's survivors may wish to pursue compensation for their losses via a wrongful death lawsuit.

The damages sought through a wrongful death claim are generally pecuniary -- or financial -- in nature. This includes not just funeral expenses and medical expenses, but also loss of prospective inheritance, loss of parental guidance and loss of income, to name a few. However, when it comes to determining pecuniary damages, the decedent's age, health and character are factors the court may consider. For example, if the decedent was a working adult supporting several children, the compensation sought will reflect that.

Because determining pecuniary damages can be complex, it is often helpful to have expert testimony. Economists may be able to determine what, financially, the decedent contributed to his or her surviving family. For example, if the decedent had stayed out of the workforce to care for the family, an economist could establish the monetary value of the decedent's services to the family. This can help the jury make an educated decision regarding how much to award in damages.

Determining how much to award in a wrongful death suit is a difficult endeavor. In the end, it is important that the final award is fair. Because so much is at stake when it comes to wrongful death claims, it is important that the victim's survivors understand what they may be entitled to, so they can proceed appropriately.

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