Losing a loved one is devastating under any circumstances, especially when the death is unexpected. When the loss of a loved one occurs because of another party’s negligence or wrongful act, it can be even more difficult to come to terms with what happened. In situations like these, New York’s wrongful death law allows the family members of the deceased to be eligible for financial compensation when a personal representative of the deceased’s estate files a claim. To learn more about filing one of these claims, you should speak with a Buffalo wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.

Contact Richmond Vona, LLC to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our team of competent personal injury attorneys.

Understanding New York’s Wrongful Death Laws

Like personal injury, wrongful death law recognizes the right of a person (or persons) to be compensated for economic and non-economic losses after suffering injuries caused by someone else’s careless or intentionally harmful behavior by filing a civil lawsuit. These two areas of the law differ, however, when it comes to who files the claim and who receives compensation.

In an injury lawsuit, the injured person is eligible to file a personal injury claim. When a person dies as a result of his or her injuries, that person is no longer able to file a claim for him/herself. As such, wrongful death law in New York recognizes that the “personal representative” of the estate can step into the shoes of the deceased and file a claim. In other words, the law recognizes that, since the deceased is no longer alive to file a claim, the personal representative can do so in the deceased’s absence. The personal representative can then seek damages for the close surviving family members and others who have suffered losses as a result of the death. A Buffalo wrongful death attorney can help with this process.

How Do Wrongful Deaths Happen?

Any time an individual dies as a result of someone else’s negligent or wrongful actions, the death is considered “wrongful” in the eyes of the law. In other words, if the deceased would have had grounds to file a personal injury claim had they lived, the personal representative of their estate may file a wrongful death claim and seek damages for the estate and certain surviving family members.

Wrongful deaths can arise from numerous situations, including but not limited to:

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?

Unlike some other states, New York law requires that a personal representative of the deceased’s estate file a wrongful death lawsuit. While other states permit family members, like a surviving spouse or child, to file a claim, New York only allows a personal representative of the deceased to do so. It is possible for a surviving family member to file the claim if that surviving family member is also the personal representative.

That being said, the personal representative files the claim on behalf of certain individuals. If the case is successful, the personal representative essentially holds the damages in a trust for these individuals to whom the damages belong.

In New York, the damages in a wrongful death claim belong to:

  • The deceased’s estate
  • The deceased’s beneficiaries
  • The deceased’s heirs
  • The deceased’s devisees

Typically, though not always, these individuals are surviving family members, such as spouses, domestic partners, children, and other dependents. If you have questions about filing a claim, you should discuss your case with a wrongful death attorney in Buffalo as soon as possible.

Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits in New York

In a wrongful death lawsuit in New York, the personal representative can seek compensatory damages. Like the name suggests, compensatory damages are designed to compensate.

There are two different kinds of compensatory damages that may be awarded in a New York wrongful death case:

  • Economic Damages: Economic damages compensate for economic losses, otherwise known as objective financial losses (e.g., hospital bills for the deceased after injury but prior to death, funeral and burial expenses for the deceased, lost wages while the deceased was injured but prior to death, and future lost wages).
  • Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages compensate for subjective losses that do not have an objective dollar amount (e.g., the deceased’s pain and suffering after injury but prior to death and value of parental care).

To be clear, under most circumstances, New York law does not permit surviving family members to recover non-economic damages for their own psychological injury or suffering. In other words, while non-economic damages may be available for the deceased’s pain and suffering, a spouse or child cannot recover damages for his or her own pain and suffering. An attorney in Buffalo who is experienced in handling cases of wrongful death could ensure family members understand their rights under the law.


While it can be difficult to even consider filing a lawsuit after the death of a loved one, it is important to remember that filing a wrongful death claim can help you with some of the financial costs associated with your loss. In addition, you can hold the responsible party accountable for your loved one’s injuries. An experienced Buffalo wrongful death lawyer at our firm can discuss your case with you today.

Contact Richmond Vona, LLC for more information about how we assist families with wrongful death claims in the Buffalo area and throughout Western New York.

Meet Our Attorneys

With over 25 years of combined personal injury experience, our co-founding attorneys, John E. Richmond and Keith R. Vona, have helped injury victims and their family members recover more than $150 million in financial relief.
Attorney John Richmond
John E. Richmond
Co-Founding Member
As one of New York’s top personal injury attorneys, John E. Richmond understands that clients come first. With over a decade of experience representing plaintiffs, he knows how to hold negligent corporations and big insurance companies liable.
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Attorney Keith Vona
Keith R. Vona
Co-Founding Member
In his nearly 15 years in practice, Keith has been consistently recognized for his client service and record of results. He has been selected for inclusion in the New York Super Lawyers® Rising Stars list four times (2013 to 2016), an honor reserved for the top up-and-coming attorneys.
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Attorney Keith Vona
Attorney John Richmond

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