In the unfortunate event of an accident or incident resulting in harm or death, legal recourse is often sought to compensate the victims and their families. In Boston, like in many other jurisdictions, two common types of lawsuits arise from such situations: wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury lawsuits. 

While these legal actions may seem similar at first, there are crucial distinctions between them. Understanding these differences is essential to navigate the legal process effectively and seek appropriate compensation. In this article, we will explore the key differences between wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits in Boston.

Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful death lawsuits are filed when an individual’s death is caused by the negligent or intentional act of another person or entity. The purpose of these lawsuits is to provide compensation to the surviving family members who have suffered losses due to the death of their loved one.

Standing to Sue: Who Can Seek Justice?

Primary Beneficiaries: In Boston, primary beneficiaries such as the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased typically have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. They are the first in line to claim damages for their losses resulting from the death.

Secondary Beneficiaries: In the absence of primary beneficiaries, the next tier of individuals, such as siblings or other dependents, may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, depending on the specific circumstances.

Seeking Justice: Types of Damages  to Pursue in Boston

Economic Damages: Wrongful death lawsuits often seek compensation for economic damages, which include medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, loss of future earnings, and other financial losses resulting from the death.

Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages aim to compensate for intangible losses such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional distress, and the impact of death on the survivors’ quality of life.

Understanding Personal Injury Lawsuits

Personal injury lawsuits, on the other hand, are filed when an individual suffers harm or injury due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional action of another party. These lawsuits seek compensation for the injured person’s losses, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

Standard of Proof

Wrongful Death Lawsuits: In wrongful death cases, the burden of proof is usually lower compared to personal injury cases. The plaintiff needs to establish that the defendant’s actions or negligence is more likely than not to cause the death.

Personal Injury Lawsuits: In personal injury cases, the burden of proof is higher. The plaintiff must provide sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant’s actions were the direct cause of the injuries sustained.

Nature of Compensation

Wrongful Death Lawsuits: As mentioned earlier, wrongful death lawsuits primarily focus on compensating the surviving family members for their losses resulting from the death of their loved ones.

Personal Injury Lawsuits: Personal injury lawsuits aim to compensate the injured party directly for their physical and emotional damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and rehabilitation costs.

Statute of Limitations

Both wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits in Boston are subject to specific time limits within which the lawsuit must be filed. These time limits are known as the statute of limitations.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits: In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is generally three years from the date of the deceased person’s death. However, exceptions and variations may apply based on the circumstances, so consulting with an attorney is crucial.

Personal Injury Lawsuits: For personal injury lawsuits, the statute of limitations in Massachusetts is typically three years from the date of the accident or injury. It is vital to file the lawsuit within this timeframe, as failure to do so may result in the dismissal of the case on the grounds of expiration of the statute of limitations.

Potential Defendants

In both wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits, there may be multiple parties who can be held liable for the damages caused. However, the potential defendants differ in these two types of lawsuits.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits: The defendants in wrongful death cases can vary widely depending on the circumstances surrounding the death. They may include individuals, such as negligent drivers, healthcare professionals, or product manufacturers, as well as entities such as employers, corporations, or government agencies whose actions contributed to the death.

Personal Injury Lawsuits: In personal injury cases, the defendants are typically those directly responsible for the accident or injury. This can include individuals, businesses, property owners, or other entities whose negligence or intentional actions caused harm to the plaintiff.

Legal Representation

Given the complexity of wrongful death and personal injury cases, seeking legal representation is crucial to ensure your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits: When pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in Boston, it is advisable to engage an attorney experienced in handling such cases. They can guide you through the legal process, help gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and represent your interests in court.

Personal Injury Lawsuits: Similarly, in personal injury cases, it is essential to have skilled legal representation. A personal injury attorney can assess your case, gather evidence, calculate your damages, negotiate with insurance companies, and advocate for your rights and fair compensation.

The Bottom Line

Although wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits may share similarities, understanding the key differences between them is essential for anyone seeking legal recourse in Boston. Wrongful death lawsuits aim to compensate surviving family members for their losses resulting from the death of a loved one, while personal injury lawsuits focus on compensating the injured party directly. 

The burden of proof, types of damages sought, potential defendants, and statute of limitations also vary between these two types of cases. Engaging the services of an experienced attorney is crucial in both situations to navigate the legal process effectively and secure appropriate compensation.

If you find yourself in need of legal assistance in Boston, Swartz & Swartz can provide knowledgeable and dedicated representation to ensure your rights are protected and your voice is heard in seeking justice for your loved ones or yourself. For more information, get in touch with us today.

Need Help?

If you or someone you know, needs help from a lawyer, contact the law offices of Swartz & Swartz, use our live chat, or send us a message using the form below and we’ll get in touch to assess your case and how we can help.

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About the Author: James Swartz
Mr. Swartz, our Managing and Principal Attorney at Swartz & Swartz P.C., is a nationally recognized and respected trial attorney as well as consumer advocate. His practice focuses on cases involving negligence, torts, products liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and other claims involving catastrophic injuries.

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