Wrongful Death Claims
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury lawsuit that is brought when a person dies as a result of someone else’s negligence or intentional actions. An unexpected death is always a tragedy, but often, the bereaved are comforted by the fact that the death couldn’t have been avoided, and no one is particularly at fault. In wrongful death cases, however, the tragedy is more deeply felt because there is someone to blame; in fact, it is likely the death would not have occurred were it not for this person or entity. That is where the possibility of filing a wrongful death claim comes in. It allows the surviving family members and loved ones of the victim to seek compensation for the financial and personal losses that have resulted from the untimely death of their relative.
A wrongful death case is filed by representatives of the decedent-a legal term for the deceased person-in order to obtain monetary compensation for the loss the victim’s family has endured. Some examples of common wrongful death claims include:
- Construction accident
- Medical malpractice
- Trucking or car accident deaths that result from negligence
- Premises accident
- Elevator accident
- Workplace accident
Regardless of circumstance, any case in which death has resulted due to another’s negligence could be a potential wrongful death case.
How to File a Wrongful Death Claim
The first step in filing a wrongful death claim is determining whether or not there is one. In order for there to be a viable claim, a few things must occur. First, it has to be established that there was indeed a death. If the victim was merely injured, no matter how severe, it is only considered a personal injury lawsuit. Second, it has to be proved that the defendant’s negligence caused the death. For example, if the decedent dies due to injuries or complications in the aftermath of a car accident, and the family wants to sue for wrongful death, it would have to be proven that the decedent would not have died if not for the negligent actions of the other person involved in the crash, such as running a red light or not checking blind spots before changing lanes.
Next, it is necessary to determine who can make the claim. The question of who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit varies based on state laws, but typically, immediate family members, including the victim’s spouse, children, and parents, can bring a wrongful death claim. In the State of New York, a personal representative to the victim’s estate must be appointed to bring the case and is then responsible for distributing any funds awarded in the suit to the deserving relatives.
Once you have determined who is filing the claim, you should be aware of your state’s statute of limitations on wrongful death claims, or the time limit within which you would have to file it. In New York State, for example, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date of the decedent’s death.
The final step is to actually begin filing the claim. The entire process of bringing a wrongful death lawsuit can be long and complex, and often very stressful. Even if you are able to file the case alone, it is likely in your best interest to retain a skilled wrongful death or personal injury attorney, who understands the nuances of your state’s laws and will be able to guide you through this emotionally draining process.
Block O’Toole & Murphy has extensive experience handling wrongful death cases in New York and New Jersey and can help you during this difficult time. Fill out our contact form today to speak with a qualified attorney.
Types of Damages in Wrongful Death Suits
There are various damages you can make a claim for in wrongful death cases. These can include:
- Medical and health care expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Wages and benefits the deceased would have been entitled to had they lived
- Lost inheritance that the decedent’s children would have received
- Loss of parental guidance
- Loss of companionship
- Pre-impact terror
- The pain and suffering that the victim experienced before actual moment of death
These damages vary based on state and circumstance. Most times, however, to determine the monetary value of these losses, the age, lifestyle, earning capacity, life expectancy, and overall health of the decedent must be considered. For example, if the family of a healthy, middle-aged husband and father brought a wrongful death claim after his death in an accident, there is the possibility that they could claim damages for many years of his predicted earnings as well as a lost inheritance. They could also potentially make a claim for loss of parental guidance, if the decedent’s children are young. In contrast, if a child dies in a tragic accident, there are often unfortunately not many damages that can be claimed, since the child did not provide monetarily for his or her family. For more information about the wrongful death of a child, please visit this page.
Wrongful Death Law in New York
As previously mentioned, when preparing to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it is important to know the specific laws surrounding wrongful death claims in your state. In New York, a wrongful death claim requires proof that the death was caused by the unlawful conduct of another party.
The specifics of who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York State are unique: only the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, or a personal representative for the deceased’s estate are eligible to bring a claim (with some exceptions made for other relatives in instances in which there is no spouse, child, or parent available). Additionally, these family members are only able to bring the claim once they have been appointed as a personal representative (the executor or executrix) for the decedent’s estate.
The plaintiff can make a claim to recover most of the damages listed above. However, the person(s) bringing the claim cannot recover damages for the emotional pain and suffering of the surviving family members and loved ones. This is a particularly harmful and antiquated aspect of New York’s wrongful death law, because the differing circumstances of wrongful death cases do not allow for all families to get the compensation they deserve. For example, if the parents of a deceased child wanted to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, they could make no claims for lost wages or lost inheritance, as the child was never employed. They could only potentially be compensated for their child’s medical bills, funeral expenses, and the pain and suffering their child endured before death. Because they cannot make a claim for the emotional pain and suffering they have to endure themselves as they grieve the premature loss of their child, they are without compensation for a major aspect of their heartbreaking loss. We at Block O’Toole & Murphy believe that this law needs to be changed so grieving family members can receive the full amount they are entitled to based on the circumstances of their loss.
Finally, it is important to remember that there is a time limit to bringing wrongful death lawsuits; in New York, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years from the date of death.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
If you or someone you know has tragically lost a loved one due to another party’s negligence, let the attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy help you. We are adept at handling wrongful death cases and can help you through this difficult time. Although we know no amount of money could ever replace the loved one you have lost, we can help you get the full amount of compensation you are legally entitled to, so there is one less thing to worry about in the aftermath of this tragedy. Some notable results we have attained in wrongful death cases include:
- $7,525,000 settlement for a family that lost their wife and mother, and 7-year old child in a heartbreaking car crash
- $7,200,000 settlement for a man who was tragically killed when he fell down an elevator shaft on a construction site after it got stuck between floors
- $5,000,000 settlement for four children of a mother who lost her life after being hit by a garbage truck
- $3,000,000 settlement for a family that lost their husband and father in a tragic collision
- $2,625,000 settlement for a couple who was tragically killed when they were rear-ended by a tractor trailer on their way to spend Thanksgiving with their children
- $2,558,000 settlement for a wife and two young children who lost their father in a preventable car accident
- $2,250,000 settlement for the spouse of an elevator worker killed in a construction accident
- $2,545,000 settlement for the two daughters of a mother who died as a result of a nearby car crash
- $2,000,000 settlement for the parents of a young man who was killed in a car accident caused by black ice
- $1,750,000 settlement for the adult children of a mother who was tragically killed when she was hit by a bus
- $1,650,000 settlement for the widow of a 73-year-old retiree who died in a large apartment building fire