When someone suffers harm through the negligence or wrongdoing of someone else, they have the right to sue the negligent party to recover for all the damages brought about by the injury. However, if the harm is so severe that it results in death, a serious wrong has been done for which the injured party cannot recover.
To address this situation, the law provides that certain survivors of a deceased individual may recover from a responsible party through a wrongful death lawsuit.
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New York law defines “wrongful death” as any death that is caused by the negligent or wrongful conduct of another person or party. If the person who died would have had grounds to bring a personal injury claim had they survived, this typically constitutes grounds for a wrongful death action.
To bring a wrongful death claim, one must also prove that the decedent is survived by at least one individual who has sustained losses due to the death and that there are damages for which the estate can recover. Learn more about damages in wrongful death cases below.
In the state of New York, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may bring a wrongful death action; family members cannot file the claim themselves. However, the personal representative seeks compensation for damages suffered by the decedent’s surviving family members, beneficiaries, and heirs. In a successful case, meaning the court awards damages, the personal representative essentially holds the award in trust for the eligible family members, beneficiaries, and heirs.
To recover for damages in a wrongful death action, you must have had a close relationship with the decedent.
Eligible individuals typically include:
- A spouse
- A parent
- A child
However, these parties may not always be able to recover in a given case. Under New York law, only those parties who suffer financial deprivation have the right to sue. For example, therefore, a grown child who received no financial support from the decedent may not recover any damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, no matter how much grief the death may have caused.
In general, the damages available are those expenses and costs caused by the defendant’s careless or wrongful behavior. At its most basic, these can include medical costs and funeral expenses. However, courts have also taken into account the financial benefits a spouse, child, or parent would have received had the decedent survived. These include the benefits of future earnings, the cost of providing parental support for minor children, and even lost inheritances. Mental pain and anguish are not recoverable under New York’s wrongful death statute.
In a wrongful death case in New York, plaintiffs can seek compensation for the following damages:
- Medical expenses incurred for the decedent’s final treatment/care
- Funeral/burial expenses
- Conscious pain and suffering endured by the decedent
- Lost wages, income, and other benefits from the time between the injury and death
- Lost inheritance to heirs/children
- Value of household services and support the decedent provided to family members
- Value of parental care, guidance, and nurturing the decedent provided to children
Additionally, in New York, plaintiffs in wrongful death cases may be able to recover nine percent interest on any damages they receive. This is calculated from the date of death.
While monetary damages can never be adequate in compensating you for the loss of a loved one, it is only fair that someone who caused the death of a person you depended on should assume the financial burden they have saddled upon you. The emotional harm you have suffered should not also result in financial devastation.
If you have recently lost a husband, wife, child, or parent, contact the Queens wrongful death lawyers at our firm to learn how we can help you protect your rights and seek justice. Your consultation is completely free and does not obligate you to pursue a case with our firm. If you need help in evaluating what steps are available to you and what your options are, give us a call. We do not collect any attorneys’ fees unless/until we recover compensation on your behalf.
Call our office at 718-441-5050 or submit an online contact form to request your free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team today.