Manhattan Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing a loved one suddenly can leave you reeling. When someone else’s negligence caused your loved one’s death, you want to take every action possible to hold that party accountable. Not only that, you may also find yourself with substantial expenses related to the loss of your loved one, all of which can pile up quickly.
Jacoby & Meyers, LLP: Our Wrongful Claim Results
At Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, we have worked with our clients on a wide range of personal injury claims, including wrongful death claims. Take a look at our past results in wrongful death claims:
- $5.7 million awarded after a runaway school bus caused the death of an eight-year-old
- $3.25 million after a fire death in an apartment
- $2.4 million after a church van crash
Our results in past results cannot guarantee the amount you will receive for your wrongful death claim. When you work with Jacoby and Meyers, however, you will receive:
- A dedicated team of attorneys with experience in the New York court system. We understand the factors that can influence your claim in the New York court system, and we will work to ensure that you maximize the compensation you receive for your claim.
- Clear advice about the compensation you really deserve for the loss of your loved one. Following a wrongful death accident, many insurance companies will issue a low settlement offer shortly after your loved one’s loss. At that time, your family may still struggle to make decisions, especially logical decisions based on your future needs. A wrongful death attorney, on the other hand, can provide you with vital advice about the compensation you deserve following the loss of a loved one.
- Support throughout the wrongful death claim. Often, filing a wrongful death claim causes substantial stress. You must already adapt your family’s daily life based on the loss of a loved one. Dealing with the insurance company, handling negotiations, and seeking evidence, especially without your loved one to give testimony, can raise your stress levels even further. By turning the claim over to an experienced wrongful death attorney, on the other hand, you can substantially reduce your stress and make it easier for you to take care of other responsibilities in your life.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
When you lose a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim. After losing a loved one to an accident, you will need to know several things about wrongful death claims.
Your family can only file one wrongful death claim against each entity responsible for your loved one’s loss.
Following the loss of a loved one, your family will need to work together to seek compensation for your loved one’s loss. While you may need to file a claim against several entities who share responsibility for your loved one’s loss, you cannot file separate wrongful death claims for each family member impacted by that loss.
Depending on how your loved one died, multiple entities may share liability for the loss of your loved one. In an auto accident, for example, you may need to deal with the responsible driver’s insurance company, the auto manufacturer, or a mechanic who missed vital repairs to the vehicle. Wrongful death accidents may also include construction accidents, medical malpractice accidents, nursing home neglect accidents, or premises liability accidents. Talking with an attorney can help you better determine who bears liability in your loved one’s death and, therefore, who you need to deal with as you file your wrongful death claim.
The people with the closest relationship to the deceased have the first right to file a wrongful death claim.
The spouse of the deceased has the first right to file a wrongful death claim. If no spouse exists, the children of the deceased have the next right. Each child of the deceased has an equal right to file a wrongful death claim or accept a settlement, so you should work together as a family to decide how you want to handle the claim. When no spouse or children exist, the parents of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim.
Other family members who had a financial dependence on the deceased—elderly family members supported financially by the deceased, for example, or a cousin raised in the home—may also have grounds for a wrongful death claim if there are no other close relatives who have the right to file that claim. If no close relatives exist, the estate of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for medical bills and debt left behind by the deceased.
Your loved one need not die immediately for you to have grounds for a wrongful death claim.
If your loved one suffered injuries in an accident that ultimately led to death, the surviving family may have grounds for a wrongful death claim. To decide if you have grounds for a wrongful death claim, consider whether your loved one could have filed a personal injury claim, had he or she survived the accident. If so, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim.
The compensation you receive in a wrongful death claim will depend on a variety of factors.
Each wrongful death claim looks a little different. Even if you lose a loved one in a very similar accident to someone else, you may not receive the same compensation.
Policy limits. In a wrongful death claim, the limits of the policy will determine the compensation you can receive for the loss of a loved one from an insurance company. In New York, for example, drivers must carry a minimum of $50,000 of wrongful death coverage for victims who die in an accident. If two or more people die in an accident, the coverage may max out at $100,000 for all parties who died in the accident. In other circumstances, including medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, premises liability accidents, or construction accidents, the insurance company may offer higher coverage, which in turn can increase the compensation you can receive for your injuries from an insurer.
The extent of your financial losses. Following the wrongful death of a loved one due to another party’s negligence, you may need to show your financial losses as a result of your loved one’s death. You may not be able to tangibly calculate some losses. Others, however, you can assign a specific monetary value. Consider these factors when building your wrongful death claim with your attorney:
Your loved one’s medical expenses before death. In many cases, the accident that caused your loved one’s death might not have resulted in immediate death. Many types of injuries lead to death days, weeks, or even months after the initial accident. During that time, your loved one may have accumulated substantial medical expenses. Make sure to include:
- Emergency medical expenses
- The cost of hospitalization
- Physical therapy
- Durable medical equipment needed before death
- Occupational therapy
Your loved one’s pain and suffering. In addition to physical pain and suffering caused by the accident, consider how your loved one’s life changed due to the accident. For example, spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injury could prevent your loved one from participating in many of the leisure activities that he once enjoyed. A long hospitalization may have caused feelings of isolation.
The loss of your loved one’s income. If you lose your family’s primary breadwinner, it can leave your family struggling substantially with financial difficulties after his loss. Your loved one’s income could represent security for your family—and without it, you may struggle to provide for your family. Including the loss of your loved one’s income as part of your wrongful death claim can make it easier for you to support your family following that loss.
The loss of services your loved one performed for the family. Not only did your loved one provide financial support for the family, your loved one provided services for the family as a whole that, in many cases, can add up to a greater value than the financial value of missing income—especially for a stay-at-home parent or a full-time caregiver for an elderly or disabled loved one.
When defining your wrongful death claim, make sure you include the services your loved one performed for the family, including:
- Childcare. Annually, childcare can range between $4,000 and $22,600 for a single child, depending on the number of hours you need care for your child and the specific hours you need available. If, for example, you need childcare during odd hours, you may need to pay more for that care than if you work a traditional 9 to 5 shift.
- Senior care. If a loved one who received round-the-clock care from your deceased family member must enter an assisted living facility, it may cost around $132 per day. While some services provide in-home care for seniors, those services can add up substantially when it comes to cost—and many of them have a set number of hours for each visit, even if your loved one does not require more care.
- Housekeeping services. The cost to clean up your home will depend on the size of your home and, in many cases, the number of occupants since more people in the home can lead to a larger mess. In many cases, maid services charge by the hour, so if the mess gets out of control, the cost of maid service can add up substantially.
- Lawn care. Simply mowing a yard can add up during the year. More extensive services, including maintaining flower beds and landscaping, can create even more prohibitive costs.
- Home maintenance. If your loved one provided the primary source of maintenance for your home, you may have to turn to a professional to get those things taken care of. Home repairs quickly become costly when you need to hire someone to do it.
- Vehicle maintenance. Your loved one may have taken care of your vehicles, from changing the oil to addressing minor repairs. Losing that service can leave you scrambling to find a reliable mechanic, not to mention substantially increasing your overall maintenance costs.
Loss of your loved one’s companionship and guidance. Most spouses plan to grow old together. Losing your spouse can leave you adrift, struggling with the lack of that companionship and a romantic relationship. When children, even adult children, lose a parent too soon, it can leave them without the vitally necessary guidance and support they expected to have during those years of their lives. Your relationship to the deceased will help determine what the loss of that companionship means in your life.
Frequently Asked Questions FAQs
Recently, a man died in a 23-story Manhattan apartment building when the elevator suddenly plummeted as he attempted to exit into the lobby. His body became pinned between the elevator and the shaft wall. The man’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit which was ultimately decided by the Manhattan Supreme Court. As part of the claim, the family members requested that the court require the building owners, management, and elevator company to preserve and maintain all evidence. The claim requested that surveillance videos and maintenance, inspection, and service records be preserved and made available.
Each day in Manhattan, people are placed at risk due to the careless, reckless, or even intentional actions of others. If careless or reckless behavior causes injury to another, the responsible party may be the subject of a personal injury lawsuit. However, if the actions result in someone’s death, the survivors of the deceased may be entitled to pursue compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. Here are some of the questions our prospective clients commonly ask about wrongful death claims.
What is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death is generally defined as the death of a human being caused by the wrongful act of another person. Any of the following can cause the death:
- Negligence, which is a lack of care
- An intentional attack, such as an assault
- A death that occurs to another during the commission of a crime
A wrongful death claim, also known as a wrongful death lawsuit or a wrongful death action, is a legal process in civil court. Surviving family members are permitted to seek damages for the losses resulting from the decedent’s death. A successful claim must prove that an individual or entity’s action or failure to act wrongfully caused the death of the decedent. As a result, the responsible party is liable for the losses the family has incurred as a result of the death
Liability in wrongful death cases is proven by establishing the following elements:
- There was a death;
- The death was caused by the wrongful act of another;
- Had the death not occurred, the wrongful act would have entitled the deceased to file a personal injury claim;
- One or more survivors have suffered a loss due to the death; and
- There are damages that the estate can recover.
What types of accidents result in a wrongful death?
There are many ways a wrongful death can occur, including:
- Fatal motor vehicle accidents
- A death caused by nursing home abuse or neglect
- Premises liability accidents, including slips, trips, and falls
- A death arising from a defective product, including defective drugs, food, or products such as vehicle parts, toys, or household appliances
- Medical malpractice, including birth injuries, misdiagnosis, wrong diagnosis, lack of proper follow up care, and surgical errors
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Manhattan?
Only a personal representative of the deceased’s estate can recover damages on behalf of family members through a wrongful death lawsuit. Family members who are eligible to receive any damages that may be recovered include:
- The spouse of the deceased
- Children of the deceased if there is no spouse
- Parents of the deceased if there is no spouse or children
- The deceased’s estate
A family member can only file the wrongful death lawsuit if he or she is also the personal representative of the estate.
Can an adult child seek compensation for the death of a parent?
If the decedent has no surviving spouse or minor children, then an adult child may be entitled to seek compensation as a personal representative of the estate. In this case, a personal representative may also seek compensation on behalf of an adult child.
What kinds of damages can be recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit?
In New York, the types of damages that can be recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Income that was lost between the time of the deceased’s final injury and his or her death.
- The cost of services previously performed by the deceased that the family must now hire someone to do. For example, care for minor children or aging parents, house cleaning, or lawn care are services that may be included.
- Loss of parental care, nurturing, and guidance provided to the deceased’s surviving children.
- Loss of inheritance suffered by surviving children.
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before death.
- Medical expenses for treatment of the deceased’s final injury.
Medical expenses may include:
- Emergency services at the scene of the accident or in the emergency room;
- Ambulance transport to the hospital;
- Hospitalization; surgical services;
- Treatment in a long-term care facility;
- Home modifications that were made to accommodate the deceased’s injury; and
- Physical, occupational, or psychological therapy that the deceased received before death as a result of his or her injury.
Currently, New York law prohibits survivors from recovering their own pain and suffering-type damages related to the loss of the deceased. For example, family members are not entitled to seek damages for mental distress and loss of companionship. However, a bill was introduced by state lawmakers in January 2020, aiming to expand types of damages that victims’ families can claim in wrongful death actions. At Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, we’re paying close attention to that bill. If enacted, we will soon know whether it applies to your wrongful death case.
Some of the damages that the bill proposes to allow include:
- Loss of love, society, comfort or protection
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium—which is the loss of physical intimacy experienced by the deceased’s spouse
- Grief or anguish
What if the deceased person is a child? Can damages still be recovered?
Yes, damages can be recovered in cases involving the death of a child. However, one of the unfortunate aspects of New York’s current wrongful death laws is that much of the compensation awarded in wrongful death cases involves lost income and earning capacity. This method of calculating damages becomes problematic when the decedent is a child and had yet to embark on a career. Our experienced wrongful death attorneys, however, can help determine what damages your case may entitle you to.
My boyfriend was killed in an accident. Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit?
In general, loved ones without a legal relationship to the decedent are not permitted to file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death actions in New York can only be filed by a personal representative of the estate on behalf of eligible family members. However, if you are the personal representative of your boyfriend’s estate, you may file the action on the family or the estate’s behalf. If you and your boyfriend had a child together, you might have the right to join a wrongful death claim on behalf of your child. Your attorney can determine if you qualify to serve as the personal representative or join a wrongful death action in your specific situation.
I lost my loved one in a workplace accident. Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Typically, the losses suffered by the family due to a death caused by a workplace accident are provided by New York’s Workers’ Compensation Program. Those who can obtain Workers’ Compensation death benefits include:
- The deceased’s surviving spouse
- The deceased’s surviving children
- The deceased’s surviving grandchildren
- The deceased’s surviving parents
- The deceased’s surviving grandparents
- The deceased’s surviving siblings
- The deceased’s estate
The expenses that may be recovered through death benefits are:
- Up to $12,500 for funeral expenses
- Two-thirds of the deceased’s income for the surviving spouse with no children, with a two-year lump sum provided if the spouse remarries
- 36 and 2/3 percent of the deceased’s income for a surviving spouse with children, with 30 percent of that income divided equally between the dependent children under the age of 25
- 25 percent of the deceased’s income to dependent grandchildren or siblings
- 40 percent of the deceased’s income to dependent parents or grandparents if there is no spouse or children
While most workplace fatalities are covered by Workers’ Compensation, there are occasionally opportunities to collect compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, the death may have been caused by a third party while the decedent was at work. If the third party is responsible and is not employed by the same company, the third party may be liable for the losses associated with the decedent’s death.
A property owner may be held liable if the death was a result of a property hazard that owner knew of and failed to remedy. Equipment manufacturers may be liable if the death was due to defective equipment. If an error in the architectural plans led to an accident that resulted in death, a site architect may be held responsible. An experienced wrongful death attorney can evaluate whether you are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in your case.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
New York’s statute of limitations requires a wrongful death action to be filed within two years of the date of the decedent’s death. The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may be a minor child or otherwise cannot file a claim. In that case, the claim must be filed by the guardian of the personal representative.
What if my loved one suffered for years before dying from complications of their injury? Can I still file a lawsuit?
In most cases, yes, but you must show that the death was directly attributed to the injury suffered years before. In addition, the deceased must not have already collected damages through a personal injury lawsuit for his or her injuries. You are still required to file the lawsuit within two years of the decedent’s death. An attorney can advise you of the legal options that are available to you based on the specific facts of your case.
Are the damages recovered from a wrongful death lawsuit taxable?
The Internal Revenue Service does not generally tax wrongful death awards or settlements, except in cases where punitive damages have been awarded. Likewise, New York typically does not tax awards and settlements from wrongful death lawsuits. However, there is an exception for awards for lost income. Any taxable investments made by the estate from the proceeds of a wrongful death award may also be taxed.
The liable party’s insurance company has already offered me a settlement. Should I accept it?
You should speak with an experienced wrongful death lawyer before accepting any settlement. While insurance companies sometimes offer a fair settlement, more often they seek to minimize the company’s financial obligations for the accident which caused a death. An attorney will properly value your case so that it is clear whether the offer is enough to cover your damages. If you accept an offer that is too low, you will be barred from seeking additional compensation for your claim.
Do I need an attorney to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Yes—obtaining legal representation is crucial when pursuing a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death cases are typically complex and come with meticulous filing requirements. An attorney can provide services to wrongful death clients beyond merely litigating the case in court.
Some of these services may include:
- Establishing a value of the case—that is, the amount of damages the plaintiff will seek. Experienced attorneys calculate the value of a claim based on the deceased’s age and health at the time of death; the deceased’s income and earning capacity at the time of death; medical bills that were incurred while treating the deceased’s final injury; funeral expenses; lost benefits such as pension or vacation time; pain and suffering caused to the deceased by his or her injury before death; loss of parental guidance and support of any minor children. The state has specific guidelines as to how these cases are valued, and a wrongful death attorney can ensure that injured families value their cases accurately.
- Determining all sources of liability and potential insurance resources that could be used to compensate the family.
- Gathering all necessary evidence and the timely filing of the case in the proper jurisdiction.
- Helping the estate collect compensation that was ordered through settlement or reward.
- Representing the case in an appeal.
Having a lawyer can often increase the compensation you receive in a wrongful death claim.
When you lose a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, having an attorney on your side can substantially increase the funds you receive for that loss. While you do not have to have an attorney to file a wrongful death claim, many insurance companies will significantly increase their settlement offers after realizing that you have an attorney on your side. Not only that, having an attorney can also substantially reduce the stress associated with your wrongful death claim, allowing you to grieve without worrying about the funds you can receive.
Jacoby & Meyers, LLP: The Manhattan Wrongful Death Lawyers You Need
When you lose a loved one to someone else’s negligence, you may find yourself with many questions, including how to begin filing a wrongful death claim. Contact the empathetic, experienced wrongful death lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, today by writing to us online or at (212) 445-7000. We will conduct a free case evaluation so you can start learning more about the compensation you may be entitled to after the tragic loss of a loved one.
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