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Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in New York

November 20, 2023

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in New York

Navigating the legal world following the loss of a loved one can be a daunting task. A multitude of questions, confusion, and heartbreak often accompany these situations. One of the primary areas of concern is wrongful death claims. At “Marvin A. Cooper, P.C.”, we believe in empowering our clients with knowledge. This article seeks to provide an in-depth understanding of wrongful death claims in New York, how they differ from other personal injury claims, and who is eligible to file them.

What Constitutes Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is a legal term that refers to a situation in which a person dies due to the negligence or wrongful act of another individual or entity. These wrongful acts can range from car accidents to medical malpractice or even intentional acts, such as assault.

In New York, for a death to be classified as a wrongful death, it must meet specific criteria:

  • A Death Has Occurred: First and foremost, someone must have died. This seems evident, but it’s the foundational basis for any wrongful death claim.
  • Negligence or Wrongful Act: The death must have been caused either by a negligent action, a lack of action when there was a duty to act, or an intentional wrongdoing. Examples could range from a drunk driver causing a fatal accident, a manufacturer producing a defective product that leads to death, or a person committing an assault that results in someone’s death.
  • Surviving Beneficiaries or Dependents: There must be survivors who have suffered financial and/or emotional harm due to the death of the victim. Typically, this includes immediate family members like spouses and children, but it can also encompass others who were financially dependent on the deceased.
  • Conscious Pain & Suffering of the Deceased:  To recover compensation for the injured victim who died, New York State requires proving that there was some amount of “conscious pain and suffering” before death in order for the victim to be compensated for the injuries which caused the wrongful death.
  • Financial Damages: There must be quantifiable financial damages resulting from the death. This could include medical and funeral expenses, loss of future income, and more.
  • Estate Representative: Only a personal representative of the deceased’s estate is permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York. This representative acts on behalf of the deceased’s survivors or beneficiaries.

It’s also worth noting that New York has a specific statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. Typically, the representative has two years from the date of the person’s death to file the lawsuit. If the claim isn’t filed within this time frame, it’s highly likely that the New York courts will refuse to hear the case.

This is just a general overview, and the specifics of any given situation might vary. As with any legal matter, consulting with an attorney who specializes in wrongful death claims in New York is crucial when seeking guidance on a potential case.

How Do Wrongful Death Claims Differ from Other Personal Injury Claims?

It’s crucial to understand that wrongful death claims and other personal injury claims, while related, are distinct in their nature and intent.

  • Nature of Damages: Personal injury claims primarily seek compensation for the injured person’s medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses experienced directly by the injured party. Wrongful death claims, on the other hand, focus on the losses suffered by the deceased’s family or dependents – in addition to the conscious pain and suffering sustained by the deceased. These additional expenses can include funeral and burial expenses, loss of income provided by the deceased, loss of companionship, and emotional pain and suffering.
  • Who Can Sue: In personal injury claims, the injured individual is the one filing the lawsuit. In wrongful death claims, the representative of the deceased person’s estate or the beneficiaries file the claim.
  • Damages Awarded: Wrongful death claims can result in compensation for both the tangible (economic) and intangible (non-economic) losses. This can range from lost future earnings, benefits, and inheritance to emotional pain and suffering – as well as the conscious pain and suffering of the deceased before having died.

Who Can File a Claim?

In New York, not just anyone can file a wrongful death claim. The right is reserved for certain parties:

The Personal Representative of the Deceased’s Estate

Only the personal representative (or executor) of the deceased person’s estate is legally allowed to file a wrongful death claim in New York. This representative is often appointed in the deceased’s will. If no will exists or if the appointed representative cannot or chooses not to act, the court may appoint one.

Although the personal representative is the one filing the claim, it’s essential to note that the representative is doing so on behalf of the deceased’s beneficiaries or heirs. This distinction is crucial because any damages awarded as a result of the lawsuit are for the benefit of the deceased’s survivors and not the estate itself (except for specific costs like medical and funeral expenses).

Beneficiaries or Heirs

Even though beneficiaries or heirs cannot directly file the claim, they are the ones who stand to benefit from any compensation awarded. These beneficiaries can include:

  • Immediate family members: Most commonly, this includes the deceased’s spouse, children (both minors and adults), and sometimes, the parents of the deceased.
  • Those Financially Dependent: If there were individuals financially reliant on the deceased, even if not immediate family, they might be entitled to a portion of any damages awarded.
  • Others Named in the Will: If the deceased had a will or other estate plans, there might be specific beneficiaries named who could benefit from the wrongful death claim’s outcome.

In New York, other relatives like siblings, cousins, and grandparents cannot file a wrongful death claim unless they were explicitly named in a will or were financially dependent on the deceased.

It’s crucial to remember that the complexities of individual cases can vary, and there may be unique circumstances to consider. For anyone considering a wrongful death claim in New York, consulting with a specialized attorney is imperative. They can provide guidance tailored to the specifics of your situation and ensure you adhere to all legal procedures and deadlines.

Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer at  Marvin A. Cooper, P.C. for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today

The loss of a loved one is an irreplaceable tragedy. While no amount of compensation can bring them back, New York’s wrongful death laws aim to bring some financial relief and justice to those left behind. Understanding your rights and the nuances of these claims can be a vital step in the healing process.

If you believe you have a wrongful death claim or need further clarity on your rights, we are here to help. At Marvin A. Cooper, P.C., we bring compassion, experience, and dedication to each case we handle. Reach out to us today, and let’s ensure justice is served. Contact Marvin A. Cooper, P.C. now for a free consultation.

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