It is hard to lose a loved one. In addition to the emotional loss, relatives must deal with the practical considerations of settling the deceased’s affairs. Where death was caused through the fault of another, the decedent’s relatives may also need to quickly decide whether or not to pursue a claim for wrongful death against the party responsible for the death.
In a prior blog we discussed the Massachusetts wrongful death statute, M.G.L. c. 229, §2; including who may benefit from a wrongful death claim. A claim for wrongful death does not belong to the decedent or the decedent’s estate. The beneficiaries of a wrongful death claim are relatives of the decedent who may seek “compensation for the loss of the reasonably expected net income, services, protection, care, assistance, society, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel and advice of the decedent.” In Massachusetts, however, an action for wrongful death is not maintained by the beneficiaries; it must be commenced and maintained by the duly appointed personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
A party who wishes to pursue a wrongful death action has two time limits to keep in mind: (1) the deadline by which the wrongful death action must be commenced; and (2) the time limit for petitioning the Probate and Family Court for the appointment of a personal representative of the decedent’s estate.