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How Damages Work In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit


Losing a loved one in an accident or because of another party’s intentionally harmful act is devastating. Nobody should have to go through the painful experience of losing someone they love because of someone else’s careless or reckless behavior. Yet deadly accidents can happen in many different ways, from motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving to hazards on premises that lead to slips and falls to medical mistakes that result in patient fatalities. In any of these circumstances, it may be possible to file a wrongful death claim in order to hold the responsible party accountable while also seeking damages for losses.

When a wrongful death attorney refers to damages, what does that term mean? Our New Jersey and Pennsylvania wrongful death attorneys can provide you with more information about damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. At Monaco Law PC, we advocate tirelessly to protect the rights and interests of grieving families. In this article, you will find a comprehensive overview of how damages work in wrongful death lawsuits in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

How Damages Work in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania 

In Pennsylvania, damages in a wrongful death lawsuit are most often classified as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate for losses resulting from the defendant’s negligent or intentionally harmful behavior. There are two general types of compensatory damages under Pennsylvania law:

  • Economic Damages: Economic Damages are intended to compensate for direct and objective financial losses (i.e., losses for which there is an objective dollar figure attached to a hospital bill or a receipt). Some notable examples of economic damages in wrongful death claims in Pennsylvania include out-of-pocket medical bills, funeral & burial costs, and loss of financial support.
  • Non-economic Damages: Non-economic damages are intended to compensate for indirect and subjective losses resulting from a wrongful death (i.e., losses for which there is no objective dollar figure and the damages award is ultimately subjective and based on the jury’s assessment of the case, such as compensation for pain or suffering). Non-economic damages in a Pennsylvania wrongful death claim include things such as loss of love, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, and loss of parental guidance.

In a limited number of wrongful death claims in Pennsylvania, punitive damages may be awarded.  Punitive damages are paid to the plaintiff, but they are not intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses. Instead, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for especially dangerous and harmful behavior. Generally speaking, in order to be eligible for punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to prove that the defendant’s behavior was malicious or so reckless that the defendant showed a disregard for the safety of others. 

How Damages Work in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New Jersey 

Unfortunately, the wrongful death laws in New Jersey are somewhat less favorable to grieving families than the wrongful death laws in most other states. Under the New Jersey wrongful death statute, surviving family members can recover pecuniary losses. In other words, grieving families can seek financial compensation for their actual economic damages. Here are two key things to know:

  • Full Compensation for Actual Losses: Through a New Jersey wrongful death claim, a plaintiff can seek compensation for the full extent of their actual economic losses. You can recover for out-of-pocket medical bills, funeral & burial expenses, financial support from the deceased, and loss of services. Loss of services covers the economic value associated with services, assistance, guidance and training.
  • Limited Direct Recovery for Emotional Damages: The New Jersey wrongful death statute limits recovery for non-economic damages. Unlike in most other jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, non-economic damages such as loss of guidance and emotional support need to be quantified by an economic expert to be recoverable.

It is important to note that certain non-economic damages can sometimes be recovered through a corresponding type of legal claim. For example, New Jersey’s Survival Act allows for the recovery of the pain and suffering that the victim endured because of the accident but prior to their death. These are complicated cases and an experienced New Jersey wrongful death lawyer can help.

Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey 

A New Jersey and Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney at Monaco Law PC can assist you with a wrongful death claim. We have a New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer serving Atlantic County, Burlington County, Bucks County, Cape May County, Camden County, Cumberland County, Delaware County,  Gloucester County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Montgomery County, Ocean County, Philadelphia County and Salem County.





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