Wrongful Death FAQs
When a person dies due to injuries sustained in an accident, the victim’s loved ones may be uncertain about whether the law gives them a right to pursue damages. If you are in this situation, you should speak with a skillful New Hampshire wrongful death lawyer to discuss your case and the compensation that you may be able to pursue. At Peter Thompson & Associates, we understand the devastating impact caused by the loss of your loved one and will aggressively pursue any compensation that you may be entitled to recover. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions surrounding this topic.
- What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
- Who can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
- Which Types of Damages are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim?
- How Much Time do I Have to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?
- What if my Loved One was Partly at Fault for a Fatal Accident
- What if the Person Who was Responsible was not Convicted of a Homicide Charge?
A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit in which a plaintiff seeks damages from a defendant based on the theory that the defendant’s actions or inactions caused a third party’s death. In other words, the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim is pursuing a personal injury claim to seek damages that the deceased person would have been able to pursue had he or she not died from his or her injuries. While a large percentage of wrongful death claims arise from car accidents and harm caused by defective products, wrongful death claims can arise from any accident that causes injuries that result in a person's death.
Unlike a criminal proceeding seeking to establish guilt for a person’s death, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit and must be filed in the civil courts. Under New Hampshire law, any individual “interested” in the estate of the deceased person can file a wrongful death claim. Thus, unlike in many states, a person does not need to be named as an administrator or executor of an estate to pursue a claim on behalf of the deceased person.
The damages recoverable in a New Hampshire wrongful death claim include the cost of any medical expenses incurred before the deceased person succumbed to his or her injuries and the cost of any funeral and burial expenses. The plaintiff can also seek compensation for the income that the deceased person reasonably could have earned during his or her lifetime. Additionally, the plaintiff may be able to recover damages for any pain and suffering that the deceased person experienced prior to his or her death. If the deceased person was married, his or her spouse may be able to recover damages for loss of consortium as well, and if the deceased person had minor children, they may be awarded damages for the loss of their familial relationship.
In New Hampshire, a wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the deceased person’s death. As with any claim, however, it is prudent to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to protect your right to recover damages and to help gather and preserve any evidence that may be needed to support your claim.
You still may be able to recover damages in a wrongful death claim, even if your loved one was partly at fault. New Hampshire uses a modified comparative negligence rule, rather than the traditional contributory negligence rule. Unless your loved one was more than 50 percent responsible for the accident in which they died, you can recover damages that are proportionate to the defendant’s fault.
You still may be able to recover damages in a civil claim against a defendant who was not convicted of a homicide charge related to your loved one’s death. This is because the standard of proof is much lower in civil court than in criminal court. A prosecutor would need to prove that the defendant was guilty of homicide beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a tough standard to meet. As a result, the evidence must be very strong for a jury to convict or even for a prosecutor to bring charges. By contrast, a defendant may be liable in civil court if the plaintiff can show by the preponderance of the evidence that they were at fault. This simply means that the defendant more likely than not was at fault for the accident. Rather than giving up if the defendant is not criminally charged, you should consult an attorney who can advise you on the strength of your case.
Losing a loved one can cause serious emotional and financial harm. The attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates can present persuasive arguments in support of your claim to help you seek any compensation that you are legally entitled to recover. We represent people in Bedford, Nashua, Portsmouth, Manchester, and other communities in New Hampshire. We can be reached at 800.804.2004 or through our online form.