Losing a loved one is a devastating experience, but it can be even more challenging when their death was caused by someone else’s negligence or intentional actions. In these situations, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek justice and compensation for their loss. In New York, wrongful death lawsuits are a type of civil lawsuit that allows family members to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will provide an overview of wrongful death lawsuits in New York and discuss the legal requirements and process for pursuing a claim. We will also explore the types of damages that may be available in a wrongful death lawsuit and the role of an attorney in these cases. If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence or intentional actions of someone else, this article will help you understand your legal options and how to seek justice for your loss.
Definition Of Wrongful Death In New York
In the state of New York, the term “wrongful death” refers to a situation where an individual dies as a result of the wrongful conduct or negligence of another party. This could include a variety of scenarios, such as a fatal car accident caused by a reckless driver, medical malpractice that results in a patient’s death, or a defective product that causes a fatal injury.
Under New York law, wrongful death is defined in Section 5-4.1 of the Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL). This law allows certain family members or the deceased person’s estate to bring legal action against the responsible party for damages suffered as a result of the death. The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate the surviving family members for the losses they have suffered as a result of their loved one’s death, such as loss of financial support, companionship, and guidance.
To establish a claim for wrongful death in New York, the plaintiff must prove that the death was caused by the defendant’s wrongful conduct or negligence. This requires showing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach of duty was a proximate cause of the person’s death.
The damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit in New York can include both economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages might include things like medical expenses, funeral expenses, and loss of income or financial support. Non-economic damages might include things like pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress.
Overall, the concept of wrongful death in New York is designed to provide a legal remedy for families who have lost a loved one due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another party. While no amount of compensation can fully make up for such a loss, a successful wrongful death lawsuit can help provide some measure of financial and emotional support for the surviving family members during a difficult time.
What Is Considered A Wrongful Death Cause Of Action In NY?
In the state of New York, a wrongful death cause of action can be brought when an individual dies as a result of the wrongful conduct, negligence, or recklessness of another party. This type of lawsuit is brought by the deceased person’s personal representative or certain family members and is intended to compensate them for the losses they have suffered as a result of the death.
Under New York law, a wrongful death cause of action may be based on a variety of different circumstances, including:
- Negligence: When an individual dies as a result of the negligent conduct of another party, such as a car accident caused by a reckless driver, or medical malpractice that results in a patient’s death.
- Intentional Harm: When an individual dies as a result of the intentional harm caused by another party, such as an assault or murder.
- Strict Liability: When an individual dies as a result of a defective product or other inherently dangerous activity, even if the responsible party was not negligent.
- Breach of Contract: When an individual dies as a result of a breach of contract, such as a failure to provide proper medical care under a healthcare agreement.
To establish a wrongful death cause of action in New York, the plaintiff must prove that the death was caused by the defendant’s wrongful conduct or negligence. This requires showing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach of duty was a proximate cause of the person’s death.
Once the plaintiff has established liability, they can seek damages for a variety of different losses, including economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages may include things like medical expenses, funeral expenses, and loss of financial support, while non-economic damages may include things like pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress.
Who Can Bring A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In NY
Under New York law, only certain individuals are allowed to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Generally, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is the only one who has the legal standing to file a wrongful death claim in NY.
In addition, the following parties may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim in NY, subject to certain limitations:
- Surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Children of the deceased
- Parents of the deceased
- Siblings of the deceased
It’s important to note that if the deceased person did not have a will, the personal representative of the estate will typically be appointed by the court. If there is a will, the named executor will usually serve as the personal representative.
It’s recommended that anyone considering bringing a wrongful death lawsuit in NY consult with an experienced attorney who can provide guidance on the specific laws and procedures involved.
Statute Of Limitations For Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In NY
In New York, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is generally two years from the date of the person’s death. This means that the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date the person passed away, or the claim may be barred forever.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule that may extend or shorten the statute of limitations depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, if the death was caused by medical malpractice, the statute of limitations may be shortened to two and a half years from the date of the malpractice or two years from the date of the person’s death, whichever is shorter.
It’s important to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney in New York as soon as possible after the death of a loved one to ensure that all applicable deadlines are met and that the family’s legal rights are protected.
Elements That Must Be Proven In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In NY
In a wrongful death lawsuit in New York, the plaintiff (usually the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate) must prove several elements in order to establish liability and recover damages. These elements include:
- Duty: The defendant had a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing harm to the deceased person.
- Breach of duty: The defendant breached that duty by failing to exercise reasonable care, either through an act or omission.
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty was the cause of the deceased person’s death.
- Damages: The deceased person’s death resulted in financial losses or other damages that the plaintiff is entitled to recover.
The damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit may include compensation for the deceased person’s medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost earnings, and other economic losses, as well as damages for the loss of companionship, guidance, and support suffered by the deceased person’s surviving family members.
It’s important to note that the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit is on the plaintiff, and it’s often a complex and challenging process. It’s recommended that anyone considering a wrongful death lawsuit in New York consult with an experienced attorney who can provide guidance on the specific laws and procedures involved.
What Damages Are Possible In A New York Wrongful Death Case?
The survivors or estate of the deceased person are given “damages” (or the plaintiff’s stated losses) in a successful wrongful death action to make up for the death. The amount and types of damages awarded will depend on the specifics of each case, however, in New York wrongful death instances, damages have been given for the following losses:
- funeral and burial expenses
- reasonable health care expenses related to the deceased person’s final injury or illness
- any financial support the deceased would have contributed to the family
- the value of support and services the deceased would have provided to the family
- the value of parental nurturing, care, and guidance to surviving children
- survivors’ lost inheritance
- conscious pain and suffering endured by he deceased due to the final injury or illness, and
- interest on the damages award, calculated from the date of death.
It should be noted that New York does not permit surviving family members to seek compensation for their personal pain and suffering, mental hardship, or loss of companionship.
What Are The Most Common Causes Of Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death can occur in a wide range of circumstances, but some of the most common causes of wrongful death include:
- Medical Malpractice: This occurs when a healthcare professional’s negligence or mistake causes the death of a patient. Examples include surgical errors, misdiagnoses, or medication errors.
- Car Accidents: Negligent or reckless driving can cause fatal car accidents, whether it’s due to speeding, drunk driving, or distracted driving.
- Workplace Accidents: Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment, and when they fail to do so, workers can suffer fatal accidents, such as falls, electrocution, or being struck by machinery.
- Defective Products: If a product is defectively designed or manufactured, it can cause serious injury or death to consumers who use it. Examples include faulty medical devices or car parts.
- Criminal Acts: If someone intentionally harms another person and causes their death, they may be held liable for wrongful death in addition to criminal charges.
It’s important to note that each case is unique, and determining the cause of a wrongful death requires a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Who Can Receive Money From A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit may be brought in New York by the victim’s spouse, child, or parent. If they have been expressly designated as the executor of the deceased’s estate, other family members of the victim may in some circumstances bring the action.
The distribution of any wrongful death settlement money will depend on the financial damages brought on by the unfortunate accident. Documents relating to the settlement will make this clear. The spouse and children are typically the recipients of wrongful death awards, though this isn’t always the case depending on who the decedent was supporting financially when they passed away.
The victim’s estate receives any compensation granted in a survivorship claim for conscious suffering or dread of approaching death. After then, the estate is divided in accordance with the will. The inheritance will be divided in accordance with New York intestate law if the victim passed away without leaving a will:
- When somebody dies with a spouse and no children, the estate goes to the spouse
- If a spouse and children, $50,000 and half of the balance goes to the spouse, while the other half is divided equally among the children
- If children and no spouse, the estate is divided equally among the children
- If parents and no spouse or children, the estate is left to the parent(s)
- If siblings but no spouse, children, or parents, the siblings split the estate evenly
In the event that your wrongful death lawsuit goes to jury verdict, rather than be settled out-of-court, the jury will indicate how the damages are distributed.
How Long Does A Wrongful Death Case Take?
The duration of a wrongful death case can vary widely depending on a number of factors, such as the complexity of the case, the number of parties involved, and the jurisdiction where the case is being heard. In general, a wrongful death case can take several months to several years to reach a resolution.
Some factors that may impact the timeline of a wrongful death case include:
- Investigation: Gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and building a strong case can take time, especially if there are multiple parties involved or if the circumstances surrounding the death are complex.
- Settlement negotiations: If the defendant is willing to settle the case out of court, negotiations can take several weeks or months to reach a resolution.
- Litigation: If the case goes to trial, it can take several months or even years to reach a verdict, depending on the court’s docket and the complexity of the case.
- Appeals: If either party is unhappy with the verdict, they may appeal the decision, which can add additional time to the case.
It’s important to note that every case is unique, and the duration of a wrongful death case can depend on a variety of factors. An experienced wrongful death attorney can provide guidance on the specific timeline for your case based on the circumstances and jurisdiction involved.
How To File For A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In NY
If you believe you have a wrongful death case in New York, the following are the general steps to take to file a lawsuit:
- Hire an experienced wrongful death attorney: The first step is to find an attorney who has experience handling wrongful death cases in New York. They can advise you on your legal options, evaluate your case, and help you determine whether you have a valid claim.
- Investigate the circumstances of the death: Your attorney will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of your loved one, gather evidence, and determine who may be liable for their death.
- Determine damages: You and your attorney will evaluate the financial and emotional losses you suffered as a result of your loved one’s death, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, and lost wages. This will help determine the number of damages you will seek in your lawsuit.
- File a complaint: Your attorney will file a complaint in the appropriate court, which will include a detailed description of the incident that caused your loved one’s death, the parties involved, and the damages you are seeking.
- Serve the defendant: Your attorney will serve the defendant with a copy of the complaint, which officially notifies them that they are being sued.
- Discovery: The discovery process involves exchanging information and evidence with the defendant, such as witness statements, medical records, and expert reports.
- Settlement negotiations: Your attorney will attempt to negotiate a settlement with the defendant, which can avoid a trial.
- Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, your case will proceed to trial. A judge or jury will hear evidence and arguments from both sides and make a decision on liability and damages.
It’s important to note that the specific steps involved in filing a wrongful death lawsuit can vary depending on the circumstances of your case. An experienced wrongful death attorney can guide you through the process and help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
Resources For Wrongful Death Lawsuit In NY
Here are some resources for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in New York:
- New York State Unified Court System: This website provides information on New York’s court system, including how to file a lawsuit, court rules, and filing fees. You can access the website at: https://www.nycourts.gov/.
- New York State Bar Association: The New York State Bar Association can provide a list of qualified attorneys who have experience handling wrongful death cases. Their website is https://nysba.org.
- New York State Department of Health: The New York State Department of Health provides information on how to obtain copies of medical records, which can be useful in a wrongful death lawsuit. Their website is https://www.health.ny.gov/.
- Legal Information Institute: The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School provides access to New York’s laws and statutes. You can access their website at https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/new_york_law.
- New York State Trial Lawyers Association: The New York State Trial Lawyers Association provides resources for individuals who have suffered a wrongful death, including legal guidance and support. You can access their website at https://www.nystla.org/.
It’s important to note that these resources are not a substitute for legal advice, and they are provided for informational purposes only. If you believe you have a wrongful death case, it’s important to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can provide guidance on your specific situation.