Understanding New York’s Wrongful Death Laws
Wrongful death law is closely related to personal injury law. Like personal injury law, 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 a personal 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.
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:
- Car accidents
- Large truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Construction accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Mesothelioma/lung cancer
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Slips and falls
- Unsafe premises
- Bicycle accidents
- Negligent security
- Nursing home neglect
- Work injuries
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.
Buffalo Wrongful Death Lawyers
Helping Families Throughout Erie County & All of Western New York
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 a wrongful death claim, you should speak with a Buffalo wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Richmond Vona, LLC online or call us at (716) 300-5885 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our team today.
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.
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