Losing a loved one is an emotionally devastating experience, and when their death is caused by someone else’s negligence or misconduct, the pain can be even more unbearable. In such cases, a wrongful death lawsuit can provide some semblance of justice for the surviving family members. This article will delve into the process of filing wrongful death lawsuits in New York, detailing the legal requirements, potential damages, and the steps involved in seeking justice for your loved one.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action brought against a party whose negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct caused the death of another person. It aims to compensate the deceased’s surviving family members for their loss and ensure that the responsible party is held accountable for their actions. In New York, wrongful death claims are governed by the state’s wrongful death statute, which can be found under New York Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL) § 5-4.1.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York?
Under New York law, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is the only party eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This individual is usually named in the deceased’s will or appointed by a court in the absence of a will. If the personal representative is successful in the lawsuit, the compensation recovered will be distributed among the deceased’s surviving family members.
Establishing the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
To successfully pursue a wrongful death claim in New York, the plaintiff must establish the following elements:
- Duty of care: The defendant owed the deceased person a duty of care. This means that the defendant was responsible for acting reasonably and safely to prevent harm to the deceased.
- Breach of duty: The defendant failed to uphold their duty of care by acting negligently, recklessly, or intentionally.
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the deceased’s death.
- Damages: The deceased’s surviving family members have suffered measurable losses as a result of the death.
Time Limitations: The Statute of Limitations
New York has a statute of limitations that imposes a time limit on when a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. Under EPTL § 5-4.1, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years from the date of the deceased person’s death. If the claim is not filed within this time frame, the court may dismiss the case, and the surviving family members may lose their right to seek compensation.
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit aim to compensate the deceased’s estate and surviving family members for the losses they’ve suffered due to the death. In New York, the following types of damages may be available:
- Funeral and burial expenses: The estate can recover reasonable expenses incurred for the deceased’s funeral and burial.
- Medical expenses: If the deceased person incurred medical expenses related to the injury that caused their death, the estate can seek compensation for those costs.
- Loss of financial support: Surviving family members can seek compensation for the loss of financial support they would have received from the deceased had they lived.
- Loss of services: Spouses and children can recover damages for the loss of services, such as childcare, housekeeping, and companionship, that the deceased provided.
- Pain and suffering: If the deceased person experienced conscious pain and suffering before their death, the estate can seek compensation for this loss.
Steps to Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York
- Consult with our experienced wrongful death attorneys.
- Gather evidence: Work with your attorney to collect relevant evidence to support your claim. This may include medical records, accident reports, photographs, witness statements, and any other documentation that demonstrates the defendant’s negligence or misconduct.
- File the initial complaint: Your attorney will draft a legal document called the “complaint,” which outlines the allegations against the defendant and the damages sought. This document is filed with the appropriate court to initiate the wrongful death lawsuit.
- Serve the defendant: After filing the complaint, the defendant must be formally notified of the lawsuit through a process called “service of process.” This ensures that the defendant is aware of the claim and has the opportunity to respond.
- Discovery phase: Once the defendant has been served, both parties will enter the discovery phase, during which they exchange information and evidence related to the case. This process may involve written interrogatories, requests for documents, and depositions (in-person interviews conducted under oath).
- Negotiation and settlement: Many wrongful death lawsuits are resolved through negotiation and settlement before going to trial. Your attorney will work to negotiate a fair settlement with the defendant’s legal team, which may involve attending mediation or other alternative dispute resolution processes.
- Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. During the trial, both parties will present their evidence and arguments before a judge or jury, who will ultimately decide the outcome of the case.
- Appeal: If either party is dissatisfied with the trial outcome, they may have the option to appeal the decision to a higher court. The appeals process can be lengthy and may involve additional legal proceedings.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in New York can be a complex and emotionally challenging process. To ensure the best possible outcome for your case, it’s essential to work with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can guide you through each step and fight for the justice your loved one deserves. While no amount of compensation can truly make up for the loss of a loved one, a successful wrongful death lawsuit can provide financial support for the surviving family members and help them begin the healing process.
CONTACT PARKER WAICHMAN LLP FOR A FREE CASE REVIEW
If you lost a loved one in a serious accident, contact our firm for a free case review. Time is limited, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with our firm. Call Parker Waichman LLP at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) to understand your rights and options. If qualified, our personal injury attorneys in New York will work hard to obtain the financial compensation you or your loved one deserves.
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