• NJ Law Reform Could Affect Future Wrongful Death Investigations

    Medical examination of a wrongful death

    Wrongful Death Lawsuits

    When a family suddenly loses a loved one, it takes a while for the shock and grief to pass and the probing questions as to cause to arise. Unfortunately, grieving family members in the state of New Jersey have often found that once they start asking questions, they are met with dysfunction and disorganization. Now, a new law signed by Governor Phil Murphy is setting out to change that, allowing those eligible to file wrongful death lawsuits greater freedom and more time to pursue justice.


    The new law, titled the Revised State Medical Examiner Act, represents a response to an investigative report written by journalists at NJ Advance Media in 2017. That report detailed decades of failures in the system responsible for investigating how and why New Jersey residents have died.


    In signing the new law, Governor Murphy is making a robust promise of reform, including “increased oversight and coordination.” The effort is denied to “ensure that families are not denied the truth about what caused the deaths of their loved ones. Reforms will also ensure that criminals do not go free and that the innocent are not wrongly accused due to inconsistent or inaccurate examination.”


    The effect of the new law will be directed towards changing the previous management of the medical examiner’s office from the state attorney general’s office to the health department. Though the health department will certainly coordinate with the Attorney General, it will work to avoid the conflicts of interest that have previously existed regarding determining cause and manner of death, insurance payouts and wrongful death lawsuits. It will also shift some of the funding of county-run medical examiners’ offices. One effect of the law is a greater likelihood of partnerships between medical examiners’ offices and the state’s university system, which is expected to feed professional staff into the system. The individual county offices will remain independent, though the state’s chief medical examiner will have a greater institutional role in setting training and procedural guidelines.


    Wrongful death lawsuits are difficult for families to pursue: they involve rehashing the details of a loved one’s death. It is hoped that with greater efficiency and transparency in the operation of the medical examiners’ offices that provide cause-of-death information, the process will get easier. If you have lost a loved one and you believe that the fault lies with another’s negligence, contact us today to learn how we can make the process easier for you.

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