Date: March 14, 2018Attorney: Andrew R. Bronsnick

By Andrew R. Bronsnick

In New Jersey, when your loved one has died because of the carelessness or negligence of another person, whether it’s the result of a slip and fall, a car crash or a construction site accident, you have the right to file legal action to hold the wrongful party liable for his or her misconduct. But can anyone who claims loss because of a wrongful or accidental death seek damages in a court of law? What are the requirements to qualify to file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Real Party In Interest Requirement

Under New Jersey law, you may only seek compensation for the death of another person if you are considered to be a “real party in interest.” That has generally been limited to individuals who were either actually financially dependent on the deceased at the time of death or who would qualify to receive an inheritance under state law. For that reason, a wrongful death claim is customarily filed by the executor or administrator of an estate, seeking damages on behalf of certain surviving family members. The statute designates the following relatives as eligible to be plaintiffs in a wrongful death action:

  • A surviving spouse
  • Any surviving children or grandchildren
  • Parents of the deceased
  • Siblings, nieces and nephews
  • Anyone who can prove actual financial dependence

The statute also identifies the order in which these relative may have a claim. If there’s a surviving spouse, that person always has a claim. Likewise, if there are surviving children, they can always seek damages. However, parents and grandchildren can typically only pursue compensation in the event of the prior death of the spouse and the grandchild’s parent. Siblings, nieces, and nephews can only file a claim if there are no living children, parents or spouses.