Wrongful Death Damages: FAQ
When someone dies due to someone else’s negligence-whether intentional or accidental-the surviving loved ones will likely have the opportunity to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party. The aim of these kinds of cases is to provide monetary compensation to ease the financial and emotional burden that the relatives of the decedent are left to handle. The compensation the family can receive in these cases is known as “damages,” and there are multiple elements to consider when determining how much each particular case is worth. Some of the variables that are considered when assessing the amount of damages owed include:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering of the victim
- Loss of income
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of parental guidance
- Life expectancy
- Future earning capacity
Whether actual costs or concepts, all of these variables can be assigned a numerical value and claimed as damages in a wrongful death case. As you can likely predict, attempting to calculate the specific number the estate of the decedent is owed would be quite difficult, and often inaccurate. How does one assign a dollar amount to the pain and suffering their loved one experienced before death, for example?
Below, we have listed some common questions regarding wrongful death damages and provided answers to the best of our ability. However, the most effective way to determine the amount of compensation you are owed is to contact a skilled wrongful death lawyer. They will be able to help you figure out the maximum amount of damages you can claim that are still within your legal rights.
Common Wrongful Death Damages Questions
How much money can you get from a wrongful death suit?
As mentioned above, this depends entirely on the specifics of each case. You should speak to an experienced wrongful death lawyer, who will be able to speak to you about your case and determine the damages you can potentially claim.
What damages are awarded in a wrongful death suit?
There are several different types of damages in most wrongful death suits. Economic damages, a primary area of recovery in a wrongful death suit, can be complex and require careful calculations, often necessitating the use of qualified experts. They may include factors like the lost wages and benefits of the deceased, the expected work life of the deceased, the potential earnings of the deceased, the cost of caring for the deceased if they required any medical care before death, and the amount the family must pay for the untimely funeral and burial of their loved one. Other less precise damages include things like the pain and suffering the deceased experienced before death, or loss of parental guidance for the deceased’s children. These types of damages are equally as challenging to measure, since they do not already have a monetary value assigned to them-and it can be an uncomfortable way to measure a person’s life.
Who gets the money in a wrongful death suit?
This can depend on both the decedent and who is bringing the suit. Typically, the spouse, parents, and children of the deceased are legally entitled to recover damages in a wrongful death case. This also varies by state. In New York State, only the spouse, children, parents, or a personal representative for the deceased’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim. If none of those relatives are available, it is possible for other relatives to make the claim instead. Additionally, before any of those family members can formally file the lawsuit, they must be designated as the lawful individual to do so.
Can I recover pain and suffering damages in a New York wrongful death case?
Yes, you can recover pain and suffering damages for wrongful death cases in New York, but only as compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced before death. Unfortunately, you cannot recover any damages for your own broken heart or despair due to the loss of your loved one.
How are wrongful death damage amounts determined?
There are various factors that are considered when calculating damage amounts for each case. Aside from the medical expenses and funeral costs, factors like age, life expectancy, and earnings of the decedent are taken into account. For example, the family of a healthy, young husband and father who was successful in his career could expect to claim a higher amount of damages than the family of an elderly, retired parent. Although both deaths are tragic, it would likely be easier to argue that the loss of the father was economically greater. This is because his earnings helped contribute to the household, he still would have lived for many years, and his children and spouse are losing his companionship and parental guidance for those years. In contrast, the elderly parent has already lived for many years, and was not contributing much financially to the family. Of course, these are very unpleasant details to discuss, but they are necessary, because they allow the court an opportunity to assess the financial and personal impact of the wrongful death on survivors.
Additionally, often experts will be called in to attest to the severity of the deceased’s injuries. This helps to confirm that the amount of money the surviving family is seeking is a fair amount. For example, an expert neurologist might be called in to affirm that, pre-death, the deceased sustained a severe and painful head injury and therefore deserves more compensation.
Are punitive damages available for recovery in New York wrongful death lawsuits?
Punitive damages are available for recovery in New York State, but they are very rare and depend on the details of each case. Generally, the defendant must be found to be intentionally malicious in order to justify punitive damages.
Are there any damage laws that specifically pertain to New York State?
Yes. There are a few laws in New York State that differ from most other states’ wrongful death statutes and are important to know. They are:
- Statute of Limitations: If you are planning on bringing a wrongful death suit, you must make your claim within two years of the date of the victim’s death.
- No Limits on Pain and Suffering Damages: New York State is one of the few that does not put a cap on the amount of damages that can be recovered in one case. Most other states limit the amount that juries can award, in the hopes of keeping sympathetic juries from awarding too much money. New York’s no-cap law ensures that the victim’s family is not denied any of the compensation they need.
- Mental Pain and Suffering Damages: It is also important to know that, even in wrongful death cases, the surviving family members cannot make any claims for their own emotional pain and suffering due to the loss of their loved one. Although they can make a claim for the pain and suffering their loved one tragically experienced before their time of death, that does not, unfortunately, extend to the trauma of the family members themselves.
Wrongful Death Damages Attorneys
The wrongful death attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have experience handling various wrongful death cases and are equipped to help you calculate and recover the full amount of compensation that you are entitled to under the law. Select results we have obtained in wrongful death cases include:
- $10,500,000 settlement for the wife and three adult children of a union laborer who tragically died as a result of an injury caused by a defective saw
- $7,525,000 settlement for a Long Island family whose wife and mother and 7-year-old son were killed in a heartbreaking car crash
- $7,200,000 settlement for the wife and two young children of a 25-year-old worker who fell 50 feet to the bottom of an elevator shaft
- $5,000,000 settlement for a mother of four who was tragically killed when she was hit by a passing garbage truck that ran onto the sidewalk
- $4,475,000 settlement for the young children of a union ironworker, who was killed after flooring collapsed and he fell 10 feet to the floor below
- $2,250,000 settlement for the daughter of a 68-year-old retired teacher who was fatally struck by a bus that did not yield the right of way
If you or someone you know has lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another party, we can help you determine the amount of damages you can claim. You should not have to endure any extra stress during this trying time; let our wrongful death attorneys assist you.