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New Jersey Wrongful Death Laws

The New Jersey Wrongful Death Statute can be found in N.J. Stat. § 2A:31.  Pursuant to the Act, when the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default, such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the person injured to maintain an action for damages resulting from the injury, the person who would have been liable in damages for the injury if death had not ensued shall be liable in an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured and although the death was caused under circumstances amounting in law to a crime[i].

Every action commenced under this chapter shall be brought in the name of an administrator ad prosequendum of the decedent for whose death damages are sought, except where decedent dies testate and his will is probated, in which event the executor named in the will and qualifying, or the administrator with the will annexed, as the case may be, shall bring the action[ii].

Every action brought under this chapter shall be commenced within 2 years after the death of the decedent, and not thereafter, provided however, that if the death resulted from murder, aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter for which the defendant has been convicted, found not guilty by reason of insanity, or adjudicated delinquent, the action may be brought at any time[iii].

The amount recovered shall be for the exclusive benefit of the persons entitled to take any intestate personal property of the decedent and in the proportions in which they are entitled to take the same except if there is a surviving spouse of the decedent and one or more surviving descendants of the decedent. In that case, they shall be entitled to equal proportions for purposes of recovery.

Further, if any of the persons so entitled in accordance with this section were dependent on the decedent at his death, they shall take the same as though they were sole persons so entitled, in such proportions, as shall be determined by the court without a jury, and as will result in a fair and equitable apportionment of the amount recovered, among them, taking into account in such determination, but not limited necessarily thereby, the age of the dependents, their physical and mental condition, the necessity or desirability of providing them with educational facilities, their financial condition and the availability to them of other means of support, present and future, and any other relevant factors which will contribute to a fair and equitable apportionment of the amount recovered[iv].

In every action brought under the provisions of this chapter, the jury may give such damages as they shall deem fair and just with reference to the pecuniary injuries resulting from such death, together with the hospital, medical and funeral expenses incurred for the deceased, to the persons entitled to any intestate personal property of the decedent in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.2A:31-4.

When an action is commenced by an administrator ad prosequendum under this chapter, no payment in settlement thereof or in satisfaction of a judgment rendered therein shall be made to him, but such payment shall be made only to the duly appointed general administrator of the estate of the decedent who has filed a bond or supplemental bond adequate to protect the persons entitled to receive the amount so paid.

No release or cancellation of a judgment, whether by warrant or otherwise, by an administrator ad prosequendum or by his attorney of record or attorney in fact releasing the person making payment from liability to the persons entitled to any intestate personal property of the decedent, shall operate as a valid cancellation of the judgment or be an authority to the clerk of any court to cancel the judgment of record[v].

[i] N.J. Stat. § 2A:31

[ii] N.J. Stat. § 2A:31-2

[iii] N.J. Stat. § 2A:31-3

[iv] N.J. Stat. § 2A:31-4

[v] [v] N.J. Stat. § 2A:31-6

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