Wrongful Death Laws in New York

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The unfortunate passing of a loved one often leaves the surviving family members in a state of grief and despair. Aside from the emotional impact due to the loss of a relative, the surviving family members must also deal with the economic aspect of the situation. For instance, the surviving family members may be left scrambling to figure out how future bills and expenses will be covered.

In these types of situations, a wrongful death cause of action may be available to help seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of civil action that are brought against a person or entity who can be held liable for the death of another individual. Because the details and nuances of wrongful death claims are established by state law, it is difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all description of a wrongful death claim.

If you have experienced the death of loved one, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our wrongful death attorneys.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim brought by the surviving members of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. A wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, can provide financial compensation in the form of damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.

Broadly speaking, any fatality caused by the wrongful acts of another may result in a wrongful death claim. The State of New York establishes five essential elements that comprise a wrongful death claim:

  • a death;
  • caused by the wrongful conduct of the defendant;
  • giving rise to a cause of action the deceased could have pursued if the death had not occurred;
  • survival by one or more persons who have suffered a loss as a result of the death; and
  • damages that can be recovered by the estate

It is important to note that although the circumstances of a case may prompt law enforcement and prosecutors to criminally charge a defendant, a civil wrongful death action may still be pursued in civil court.

However, the interaction of criminal and civil cases arising from the same occurrence may pose difficult legal issues. For instance, issues of timing and periods in which the suit must be filed may arise. For this reason, it is worth discussing your options with an experienced wrongful death attorney.

Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?

Unlike some states which may allow any surviving family member to file a wrongful death claim following the death of a relative, New York law holds that a wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. This personal representative is often designated by name in the deceased’s estate plan. Common choices include surviving spouses or adult siblings of the deceased.

Although the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is responsible for filing a wrongful death claim, the nature of the lawsuit may pursue damages for losses suffered not only by the estate, but for losses suffered by the deceased’s heirs, beneficiaries, or devisees as well. If the wrongful death claim is successful and damages are awarded, the personal representative is treated by the court as if he or she holds the award in trust for the surviving family members to whom the damages belong.

What Damages are Available in a New York Wrongful Death Claim?

The damages that are available in successful wrongful death cases vary, as the types and amounts of compensation significantly depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. In general, however, the following types of damages are available in successful wrongful death claims:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Reasonable medical, nursing, and other health care expenses related to the deceased person’s final injury or illness
  • The value of support and services the deceased provided to family members
  • The value of parental nurturing, care, and guidance to surviving children
  • Wages and benefits lost between the deceased person’s final injury or illness and his or her death
  • Loss of inheritance suffered by surviving children
  • Conscious pain and suffering endured by the deceased due to the final injury or illness
  • Nine percent interest on the damages award, calculated from the date of death

Under certain circumstances, punitive damages may also be available. Unlike typical compensatory damages, which are intended to make a party whole, punitive damages are intended to punish acts which are particularly heinous or reckless.
It should be noted that New York law does not allow for surviving family members to pursue compensation for their own pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of companionship.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?

New York law dictates that a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the date of the deceased’s death. This statute of limitations means that wrongful death claims filed more than two years after the date of the deceased’s death are effectively barred from being litigated in court.

Unlike some states, which may allow the statute of limitations to be “tolled” or paused in cases where the designated personal representative is legally incapable of filing a wrongful death claim (e.g., if the personal representative is a child), New York law does not toll the statute of limitations under such circumstances. Instead, the State expects that the guardian of the child or incapable representative will file the claim on the representative’s behalf.

Because the issue of statute of limitations can pose challenging and complex legal issues, it is worth discussing your case with a attorney who may be able to provide valuable information and guidance regarding New York law.

ASK ZINDA

At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys have plenty of experience litigating and resolving wrongful death cases. Our team has the resources necessary to help build the strongest claim following the death of a loved one. Our dedicated attorneys are on stand-by, waiting to help grieving family members seek fair compensation for their losses.

If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation.

Meetings with attorneys are by appointment only.