In the wake of the loss of a loved one, it is natural to feel devastated, confused, and overwhelmed. In addition to the emotional trauma, you may have to deal with the funeral arrangements, medical bills, and personal obligations in wake of the tragedy. Discovering that your loved one’s passing was caused by negligence, reckless action, or inaction often adds to the stress and pain you experience. You may want to file a wrongful death suit against those liable, but may not know if you can. Below is what you need to know about who has standing in wrongful death suits in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Standing in Legal Cases
Standing is a legal concept shared by all common law systems around the world. The rules of standing determine what parties or individuals are allowed bring certain suits to court. Usually, laws of standing dictate that only individuals or parties that have directly suffered harm and can actually receive compensation for their harm can bring a claim forward as a plaintiff. For a wrongful death suit, this typically means someone directly affected by the loss. Every state determines its own rules for standing, much as they each determine the rule for other civil laws.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Massachusetts and New Hampshire?
Massachusetts and New Hampshire have radically different rules for standing in wrongful death cases. According to Massachusetts state law, only the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate can bring a wrongful death suit to court. This means that even if the family of the deceased wants to bring action against a liable party, the executor must be the one to officially file before the statute of limitations expires. The executor of the estate is also responsible for recognizing a wrongful death—if they do not realize the death is a wrongful one through the reasonable course of their duties within the statute of limitations time frame, their standing can lapse.
New Hampshire, on the other hand, allows for anyone “interested in the estate” of a deceased person to bring a claim to court. This could be anyone who is mentioned in the deceased’s will or stands to gain from a wrongful death suit on their behalf. The law explicitly states that it does not matter if the plaintiff is an administrator of the estate for the purpose of filing. Even if the plaintiff passes away, the administrator of their estate can continue the wrongful death claim in their stead after affirming it in a writ.
Bringing a Suit to Court
Even though only certain individuals have standing in a wrongful death case, they are still allowed to hire an attorney to represent them in court and in legal processes. This is important because filing a civil claim, setting up arbitration or meditation, or taking your claim to trial can be exhausting and confusing, made worse by the emotions surrounding the loss of your loved one. The experienced attorneys of Mazow | McCullough, PC can help you determine your legal options and help you pursue your claim efficiently and professionally. If you’ve lost a loved one in a wrongful death, don’t delay, call us today for a free consultation.