The New York wrongful death statute considers a death “wrongful” when it results from the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another person or party. Generally speaking, if the person who died (known in these cases as the “decedent”) would have been entitled to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit had they lived, their death is considered “wrongful” under the law.
Wrongful death claims arise from all types of incidents, including but not limited to:
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Car crashes
- Motorcycle collisions
- Large truck accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Birth injuries
- Emergency room errors
- Failure to diagnose cancer
- Hospital negligence
- Medication errors
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Prison injuries
- Workplace accidents
- Assault, homicide, and murder
At Wolf & Fuhrman LLP, we assist families who have lost loved ones in all types of tragic accidents. We understand that this is one of the most difficult times in your life, and we want to help you and your family secure the justice you deserve.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?
Under the New York wrongful death statute, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate (also known as the “executor”) can bring a wrongful death action. This means that, unless you are the named or appointed personal representative of the estate, you cannot be the one to actually file a claim or lawsuit, even if the decedent was your spouse, child, parent, or another close family relative. Even though only the personal representative can bring the suit, all beneficiaries of the decedent can recover their share of the estate. The amount of that share is calculated either based on the will of the decedent or by the Surrogate’s Court, following established laws/rules of succession.
However, even though the personal representative must be the one to initiate the wrongful death action, damages are sought on behalf of the estate and on behalf of certain specified individuals (“plaintiffs”). The plaintiffs who can recover damages in a wrongful death case in New York are determined strictly by law.
Survivorship Actions vs. Wrongful Death Claims
In New York, two separate actions can be taken after the wrongful death of an individual:
- Survivorship Actions: A survivorship action is brought on behalf of the estate and seeks compensation for conscious pain and suffering experienced by the decedent before death.
- Wrongful Death Actions: A wrongful death action is brought on behalf of eligible surviving individuals for specific damages paid out of pocket by those individuals.
The personal representative of the estate can bring both a survivorship action and a wrongful death action. Often, wrongful death actions have several plaintiffs and can have different statutes of limitations (or filing deadlines).
Note that both survivorship actions and wrongful death actions are separate from criminal proceedings. If a person dies due to another individual or entity’s wrongful or criminal conduct, the at-fault party may face criminal prosecution. The outcome of a criminal case does not necessarily affect the outcome of either a survivorship action or a wrongful death case.
What Damages Are Available in New York Wrongful Death Cases?
In most cases, spouses, children, and other family members who survive a wrongful death victim face significant financial and emotional hardships. These individuals may be entitled to compensation for these damages.
While the exact damages available in your case will depend on the specific factors involved, you may be entitled to compensation for the following:
- Reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to the decedent’s final care
- Funeral and/or burial expenses
- Loss of income, wages, and employment benefits the decedent would have provided
- Loss of inheritance
- The reasonable dollar value of support and services the decedent provided
- Loss of parental care, guidance, nurturing, and support
- Interest on the damage award from the date of death until the date of the award
Our wrongful death attorneys in the Bronx can review the details of your case with you during a free, no-obligation consultation. We can help determine which types of damages you may be entitled to receive, as well as the potential value of your case.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York?
Like other states, New York has a statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits. The statute of limitations is simply the amount of time you have to sue the liable party; if the statute of limitations expires, your case will almost certainly be dismissed.
In most cases, you have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York. If the death resulted from medical malpractice, you have two years and six months from the date of death to bring your lawsuit. If the defendant (the person or party against whom you are bringing the claim) is also facing criminal charges for the incident that led to your loved one’s death, you have one year from the date on which the criminal case ends to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York.
Other exceptions may apply, but it is always a good idea to contact an attorney as soon as possible to avoid missing the filing deadline. We encourage you to get in touch with our team at Wolf & Fuhrman LLP right away to learn how we can help you and your family.