What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Losing a loved one in an accident that never should have happened is one of the most traumatic experiences a family can be forced to deal with. Sadly, fatal accidents caused by negligence do happen, leaving families with profound sadness and problems they never could have anticipated. A wrongful death lawsuit can help alleviate financial concerns caused by the death of a loved one, although it cannot do away with the emotional pain the family is dealing with.

For families who have been put in this position, we will explain damages that could potentially be awarded in a New York wrongful death lawsuit.

Economic Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

A wrongful death lawsuit is intended to compensate the victim's family members for the economic losses they suffered as a result of the untimely death of their loved one. The most common damages awarded in New York wrongful death lawsuits are related to:

  • Medical expenses required to treat the victim
  • The costs of the funeral, cremation or burial
  • Lost wages the victim was earning and would have been able to earn in the future
  • Reduction in the inheritance that the victim would have left
  • Loss in parental guidance the deceased would have provided if they reached their anticipated life expectancy
  • Services that the victim provided, such as childcare

The age and life expectancy of the person who died (the decedent) and their distributees will impact how these financial losses are assessed. One of the more challenging components of any wrongful death action, mentioned above is legally navigating the compensation for the loss of the parental guidance, emotional support and moral training that should be awarded. In certain cases, these damages can be claimed by adult children of a deceased parent, but they are certainly more impactful when the surviving child is younger.

Damages Awarded for Conscious Pain and Suffering

Unfortunately, as of 2019, survivors who bring a wrongful death lawsuit in New York are not able to recover damages for the sorrow, emotional trauma and loss of companionship that they experience after the death of a loved one.

It is, however, possible to recover damages for the conscious pain and suffering and fear of impending death the victim experienced before passing.

These issues can be uncomfortable to confront and very complicated legally, which is just another reason that anyone considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit needs to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney who can sort out these issues and pursue the right strategies and obtain maximum compensation.

Who Can Receive Money from a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In New York, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the spouse, child or parent of the victim. In some cases, other family members of the victim may file the lawsuit if they have been explicitly named the representative of the deceased's estate.

Compensation awarded from the wrongful death lawsuit will be distributed based on the economic losses resulting from the fatal accident. This will be specified in settlement documents. Most often, the distributees of the wrongful death awards are the spouse and children, although this is not always the case depending on who the decedent was financially supporting at the time they passed.

Damages awarded in a survivorship claim for conscious pain and suffering or fear of impending death go to the estate of the victim. The estate is then distributed according to the will. If the victim died without a will, the estate will be distributed according to New York intestate law:

  • 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.

$7,525,000 Settlement After a Fatal Car Crash

Our firm took on a motor vehicle wrongful death case in which a woman was driving a sedan with her three children. As she pulled out from a side street onto the main road, however, a massive collision occurred between her car and a Ford van owned by an electrical contractor. Tragically, the loving wife and mother driving the sedan was instantly killed, as was her seven-year-old son.

The two other children in the vehicle, ages two and four, survived, albeit with serious injuries. The youngest suffered skull and facial fractures but was ultimately able to make a full recovery. The four-year-old's injuries were more significant, forcing her to spend more than a month recovering in the hospital. She has made a remarkable recovery and is able to run, read and have fun the way a child should, but will continue to require ongoing therapy and special education services to meet her needs.

The significant ongoing therapy and special educational services that this brave young girl will require made up a significant sum of the final settlement. The girl's father did not return to a full-time job due to the increased parental care and supervision that she would require, and a portion of the final settlement would go towards the resulting loss wages of this arrangement. Claims were also made for the tragic and untimely deaths of the mother and 7-year-old child, and the case settled for $7,525,000.

Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

Losing a loved one is difficult enough without also having to worry about the financial hardships which can accompany an unexpected death. If you have recently lost a family member in an accident caused by somebody else's negligence and are considering filing a lawsuit, we strongly recommend you contact an experienced wrongful death attorney.

The attorneys of Block O'Toole & Murphy have experience litigating a variety of types of wrongful death cases, including:

Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form to receive a free, no-obligation legal consultation from one of our attorneys. We serve all of New York and New Jersey.

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