/Queens Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing a family member or loved one is a deeply impactful and disruptive experience, in and of itself. Once you realize that you may need to be somehow involved in a wrongful death claim, however, you may find that those negative feelings increase even further. Nobody should have to endure the pain of losing a loved one; but when the unimaginable occurs, don’t you want somebody to help you get through the difficult process?
Wrongful death is never an easy concept to talk about. You may even struggle to express yourself when you find the right Queens personal injury attorney for your case and begin to collect evidence. If you’ve selected an empathetic and compassionate lawyer, he or she will offer a soft hand of guidance throughout the process. Remember: you’re not alone. Statistics indicate that as many as 100,000 patients suffer wrongful death due to medical malpractice annually. This figure doesn’t even begin to account for innocent individuals who lost their lives through other means.
How Does New York State Define Wrongful Death?
Each state has unique laws concerning the circumstances that permit a wrongful death claim. New York wrongful death statutes are contained in the New York Estates, Powers, and Trusts Code Part 4. According to this code, claimants’ cases must include proof of five key elements before their claims can be established:
- A death must occur…
- …and be caused by the wrongful conduct of the defendant…
- …giving rise to a cause of action the deceased could have pursued in court if death had not occurred.
- Survival of one or more persons who have suffered a loss as the result of the death
- Damages recoverable to the estate
Roughly 200,000 Americans die each year as the result of actions that lead to wrongful death. Circumstances ranging from elder abuse or product liability to workplace injuries and slip and falls may all end in wrongful death. That’s why it’s so important to understand the guidelines that dictate what qualifies as wrongful death—it’s the first step to understanding your case’s weight in court.
Personal Representatives and Wrongful Death Claims
If you’ve already begun to research wrongful death claims in New York, you’ve likely seen the term “personal representative” appear with some frequency. This individual is the individual responsible for filing a wrongful death claim. Most family members may not bring wrongful death claims to court unless they are also the personal representative for their deceased family member’s estate.
Before delving much further into the pursuit of compensation following a wrongful death, allow us to provide a quick highlight of the parties that are legally permitted to bring a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The decedent’s child
- A parent of the decedent
- A spouse of the decedent
- The personal representative of the decedent’s estate
In some cases, decedents may name personal representatives before death. Many cases involve the court appointment of a personal representative as well.
A Skilled Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help
One way to ease the painful process of bringing a wrongful death claim involved hiring a qualified legal representative. An empathetic and knowledgeable wrongful death attorney can lend his or her industry experience to your case. If you’re struggling after the loss of a loved one, the last thing you deserve is to be poked, prodded, and manipulated by an emotionless legal system. You deserve compassion and sincere assistance.
That’s why at Jacoby & Meyers LLP, we’ve dedicated ourselves to building a team of legal professionals who can lend meaningful services to the surviving loved ones of wrongful death victims. We have achieved wrongful death settlements in excess of $2 million, and aggressively pursue fair compensation for our clients in court. We leverage two key benefits to give our clients the best chance of legal success: extensive knowledge of applicable laws and unfettered access to expert resources. Jacoby & Meyers’s team of skilled personal injury attorneys understands the intricacies that lurk behind wrongful death laws and regulations. This places clients in an improved position once it’s time to head to court.
We also take advantage of our office’s access to beneficial resources during a case. Many legal professionals maintain working relationships with doctors, automobile manufacturers, and experts from other sectors to help build cases. These individuals’ extensive industry knowledge positions them as ideal parties to have on your side during the legal process.
Give us a call today to speak to one of our compassionate and friendly representatives. We offer a free case evaluation so prospective clients can speak to a professional about the intricacies of their unique cases.
How Wrongful Deaths Occur
You may be curious about some examples of circumstances or cases that constitute wrongful death. Despite the guidelines that surround and define the concept being clear, it can still be difficult to imagine scenarios where it’s applicable. If you’ve lost a loved one and believe that their passing may have been an instance of wrongful death, you might be right.
Many instances of wrongful death actually occur in medical settings. In fact, medical malpractice is one of the most common roots of wrongful death. Those who are already in the hospital and those brought in for emergency treatment, alike, risk wrongful death at the hands of medical professionals. Negligence such as misdiagnoses and surgical errors can prove deadly.
Unfortunately, there are a wealth of other examples that demonstrate how medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death. This is not, however, the only way for wrongful death to occur. A standard vehicle accident can even become an example of wrongful death. If an automobile company is found responsible for using defective products in their vehicle, it could be held liable in a wrongful death suit.
What Must Plaintiffs Prove to Establish Wrongful Death?
One of the most crucial parts of any wrongful death case is establishing that the term “wrongful” is actually applicable. This often proves a somewhat difficult process, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It’s tough to deny that a car accident occurred, for example, if a plaintiff has extensive pictures of the crash and the damage. It’s much easier to deny that somebody held responsibility for your loved one’s life.
Wrongful death cases involve a lot of proof. In between proving this and that, the plaintiff must also prove:
- That the defendant had a legal obligation to the deceased
- We all have a general obligation to avoid high-risk behaviors
- This is why drivers are expected to exercise reasonable caution and manufacturers are expected to make products free of defects
- Even tangential relationships like these can be enough to burden the defendant with a legal obligation to the deceased
- That the defendant breached that legal obligation
- That the breach directly caused death
All of these concepts and regulations can be neatly summarized in a more legally-friendly way. If your loved one passed away as a result of wrongful death, the first thing you and your attorney will work to prove is that the defendant had a duty of care. The precise definition of this phrase depends on the relationship between parties; but, in general, it encompasses the duty of keeping another person safe.
The second point of proof in a case concerns a breach of the duty of care. This implied not only that the duty of care existed, but that the defendant explicitly breached that responsibility. In some cases, this involves proving that the defendant performed some act that caused the victim’s death (like knowingly driving drunk).
The third and final point of proof—in this portion of a case—concerns causation. A defendant can breach the duty of care all they want—even if they shouldn’t—provided it doesn’t actually harm the victim. If that breach can be shown to have caused death, however, it qualifies as causation, and further establishes a wrongful death case.
Obtaining Compensation for a Victim’s Pain and Suffering Before Death
Many wrongful death lawsuits involve a secondary effort: to achieve some compensation for the decedent’s pain and suffering before death occurred. Some states do not allow personal or court-appointed representatives to pursue these damages.
New York is an exception. Pain and suffering claims outlive decedents in cases such as these. Usually, pain and suffering claims become a part of the decedent’s larger estate (to be eventually administered by the victim’s representative).
The Complexities of Wrongful Death: Loss of Earning and Loss of Companionship
When a victim is wrongfully killed, those who are closest to them suffer. Spouses, family, and friends all have to live with the grief left behind after a tragic accident. Some of these parties actually have a legal ground to stand on in court; they can pursue compensation for damages that have impacted their lives as a result of the wrongful death, too. Certain family members and those who were financially dependent on the victim before their death can seek compensation for loss of companionship, loss of earnings, and other comparable damages.
Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Each type of case comes along with its own set of potential damages. Damages that we traditionally associate with car accidents, for example, might include past and ongoing medical costs and victims’ pain and suffering.
New York awards damages in wrongful death cases based on the verifiable facts demonstrated in court. It is impossible to predict, with any certainty, what damages your specific case may concern. Some victims fail to receive compensation even for proven damages.
Keep concepts like these in mind as you consider the following potential damages:
- Funeral costs
- Loss of wages or benefits occurring between the decedent’s final injury or illness and their death
- Loss of support and services provided by the decedent to their family
- Reasonable medical and similar expenses (only those relating to the decedent’s final illness or injury)
- Loss of value of parental nurturing and care for surviving children
- Decedents’ conscious pain and suffering caused by final injury or illness
Don’t forget: New York citizens cannot pursue compensation for damages like pain and suffering in their own cases. If an individual is close enough to the decedent to be a part of their estate, they will receive a percentage of the compensation awarded in a settlement or court verdict.
New York’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
Any claim a plaintiff wishes to bring in any state must be submitted within an appropriate time frame. The length of this timeframe depends heavily upon a plaintiff’s location and the nature of their case. In New York, wrongful death claimants must begin the claims process within two years of the initial victim’s death.
One important concept to remember: if a wrongful death victim’s personal representative is legally incapable of filing the claim (perhaps they are a child, perhaps there’s some other reason), New York does not stop or “pause” the timer on the statute of limitations. Whatever guardian is responsible for the personal representative also becomes responsible for filing the claim in their place.
Jacoby & Meyers, LLP: Your Partners in Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim
Since 1972, our firm has aimed to provide reliable, high-quality legal representation to every eligible client in need of our assistance. Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, believes that everybody deserves legal services—not just the wealthy. We serve everyday people who have undergone tremendous loss and immense heartbreak.
Our attorneys have seen it all; they understand your position, they seek to serve clients empathetically and compassionately, and they’re here to help. We offer FREE initial case evaluations to potential clients; and, if our team is the right match for your case, you won’t be responsible for paying attorney fees unless your case wins or settles.