Massachusetts Wrongful Death Laws

The Massachusetts Wrongful Death Statute can be found in Chapter 229, Actions For Death And Injuries Resulting In Death. Pursuant to the Act, a person who:

  • by his or her negligence causes the death of a person, or
  • by willful, wanton, or reckless act causes the death of a person under such circumstances that the deceased could have recovered damages for personal injuries if his or her death had not resulted, or
  • operates a common carrier of passengers and by his or her negligence causes the death of a passenger, or
  • operates a common carrier of passengers and by his or her willful, wanton, or reckless act causes the death of a passenger under such circumstances that the deceased could have recovered damages for personal injuries if his or her death had not resulted, or
  • is responsible for a breach of warranty arising under Article 2 of chapter one hundred and six which results in injury to a person that causes death,

shall be liable in damages in the amount of:

(1) the fair monetary value of the decedent to the persons entitled to receive the damages recovered, as provided in section one, including but not limited to compensation for the loss of the reasonably expected net income, services, protection, care, assistance, society, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel, and advice of the decedent to the persons entitled to the damages recovered;

(2) the reasonable funeral and burial expenses of the decedent;

(3) punitive damages in an amount of not less than five thousand dollars in such case as the decedent’s death was caused by the malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct of the defendant or by the gross negligence of the defendant;

Except that:

(1) the liability of an employer to a person in his or her employment shall not be governed by this section,

(2) a person operating a railroad shall not be liable for negligence in causing the death of a person while walking or being upon such railroad contrary to law or to the reasonable rules and regulations of the carrier and

(3) a person operating a street railway or electric railroad shall not be liable for negligence for causing the death of a person while walking or being upon that part of the street railway or electric railroad not within the limits of a highway.

A person shall be liable for the negligence or the willful, wanton or reckless act of his or her agents or servants while engaged in his or her business to the same extent and subject to the same limits as he would be liable for his or her own act.

The executor or administrator of the deceased shall recover damages under this section in an action of tort.  An action to recover damages under this section shall be commenced within three years from the date of death, or within three years from the date when the deceased’s executor or administrator knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the factual basis for a cause of action.


Inside Massachusetts Wrongful Death Laws