Kathleen Vasa, the Massachusetts widow of the doctor who died when his 76-year-old cancer patient crashed her motor vehicle into the hospital’s radiation therapy unit where he worked, is suing the driver, Jane Berghold, for wrongful death.
Berghold, who crashed her car into the hospital on October 15, claims that she tried to stop the car but the brakes wouldn’t work. She has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide by negligent operation and one count of operating to endanger.
Susan Plante, a 59-year-old hospital worker, also died from her injuries.
A person’s death is considered a “wrongful death” when the death occurred because another person, company, or entity acted negligently, carelessly, recklessly, or irresponsibly. Usually, only immediate family members can file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.
Damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit usually take into account the financial and emotional costs that the loved one’s loss may have on surviving family members. Loss of emotional and financial support, medical and funeral expenses, loss of companionship, loss of benefits, and loss of inheritance are among the factors that can be taken into consideration. In certain cases, a plaintiff in a wrongful death case may also be awarded punitive damages to punish the defendant for their actions.
In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Wrongful Death Statute describes how a wrongful death statute would be divided among surviving family members:
• If there is a surviving spouse and no children, but there are other relatives — the spouse takes the first $200,000, and 1/2 of the remainder of the estate. The next of kin takes balance.
• If the deceased left behind a spouse and children — spouse takes 1/2 and children receive the remaining balance.
• If there are no children or relatives– the surviving spouse takes all.
• If the spouse is deceased, then everything goes to the children to be divided equally between them.
• If there is no spouse or children, the parents are the beneficiaries of a wrongful death award.
• No spouse, children or parents –shares then proceed to the brothers and sisters or descendants of deceased siblings divided equally among those in the same generation.
• No one listed above — Whoever is the next closest in kinship, takes all.
Widow sues driver in hospital crash, Boston Globe, November 1, 2007
Massachusetts, Summary of State Wrongful Death and Intestacy Statutes
Related Web Resources:
Second person dies following car crash into hospital entrance, Boston Globe, October 16, 2007
Massachusetts Wrongful Death Statute