New York Wrongful Death Lawyer
Recently, it was reported that the New York Assembly and the New York Senate had both proposed bills that would increase the amount of compensation available to families under the state’s wrongful death laws. The bills—if passed—would have allowed the following damages in wrongful death suits: grief or anguish over the decedent’s death; loss of love, society, protection, comfort, companionship, and consortium due to the decedent’s death; and loss of nurture, guidance, counsel, advice, training, and education.
While these bills failed to pass, the efforts to modify the law to be more in step with other states in the nation continues. And, although these damages are still not permitted in wrongful death lawsuits, other damages are. Read on for more information about wrongful death in New York, and if you’ve lost a loved one due to an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional act, contact a New York personal injury lawyer at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, for guidance as to how to proceed.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is defined as the death of a human being as the result of a wrongful act by another person.
Some examples of cases that might result in a wrongful death claim include:
- A car accident in which a person’s careless driving results in the death of another person.
- An intentional act such as assault that causes death to the victim of the crime.
- The death of an individual due to a medical error by a physician or other health care provider.
- A defective product sold by a manufacturer or distributor that results in the death of a consumer due to a malfunction or improper labeling.
- A fall that causes the death of a person due to a hazardous condition at a property that he or she was visiting as a lawful guest.
When an individual or entity causes a person’s death through actions that are negligent, reckless, intentional, or wrongful, New York law allows for recovery of damages that the decent received before death provided the defendant would have been found liable for the damages if the defendant had lived. Because of the death, these damages may be recovered by family members of the decedent through a wrongful death lawsuit.
A plaintiff must prove five elements in a New York wrongful death claim:
- A death occurred
- The death was caused by the defendant’s wrongful actions
- If the decedent had lived, the defendant would have been liable for his or her injuries
- One or more persons survive the decedent and have suffered losses as a result of the death
- The survivors are seeking damages that, by law, they are eligible to recover from the defendant
New York law does not recognize claims filed as the result of the death of an unborn fetus, even if that death was caused by a wrongful act.
New York wrongful death cases often involve liability on the part of more than one party. For example, a medical malpractice wrongful death case may feature liability not only on the part of the medical provider who made the error, but also the hospital that employed the doctor, and—in the case of city-owned hospitals—the city itself. A car accident wrongful death lawsuit in which the driver defendant was working at the time of the collision may not only name the driver, but the driver’s employer as well.
Generally, New York provides a statute of limitations in wrongful death claims of two years. However, some exceptions to this rule apply. An experienced New York wrongful death lawyer can advise you of any special circumstances that may apply in your case.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?
The personal representative of the decedent’s estate, whether named by the decedent in a will or appointed by the court may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of family members, including:
- The decedent’s spouse
- The decedent’s children
- The decedent’s parents
- Other family members such as siblings may recover if there is no spouse, children, or parents to do so unless he or she is the personal representative of the estate
- The personal representative of the estate, if no one else is available to recover the damages
What Damages Can Be Recovered?
In a New York wrongful death case, the following damages may be claimed:
- Medical bills related to the decedent’s final injury. If your loved one received medical treatment after the accident that resulted in his or her final injury, the cost of this treatment may be covered through a wrongful death claim.
- Funeral expenses.
- Loss of future earnings. Families may recover damages involving the wages that the decedent would have been expected to earn if he or she had not died and had continued to be employed in the job he or she held at the time of death. Related losses such as loss of benefits and loss of inheritance may also be claimed.
- Loss of support and services. If the decedent performed certain household services during life, such as lawn care or upkeep of the family home, family members may be able to collect damages related to the expense of hiring someone to perform those services.
- Pain and suffering of the decedent before death.
Some examples of recent news articles in which New York’s wrongful death law may apply include:
- Recently, a 21-year-old man was crushed to death while car shopping when the owner of the 2002 Lexus he was looking at accidentally started the vehicle’s remote ignition. The car was not in park at the time, and lurched forward when the ignition was started, pinning the man between the vehicle and another parked vehicle. Witnesses were able to free the man before the car moved forward and struck him again. The man was rushed to the hospital with massive injuries to his torso and legs, but he was not able to be saved. In this case, the owner of the vehicle might be found liable for the injuries—and subsequent death—of the man due to the carelessness of leaving the car in drive and accidentally depressing the remote ignition.
- The family of a New York City woman has filed a lawsuit against the city and a hospital after their daughter committed suicide by jumping to her death at a Midtown hotel. The lawsuit, which was filed by the 23-year-old young woman’s family recently, alleged that the woman was acting erratically before her death and had been taken to the city-owned Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. The hospital prematurely discharged the woman, the lawsuit states, resulting in her death just hours after being released. In this case, the claim was filed against the hospital for medical negligence, which requires proof that the hospital’s psychiatric department staff violated the standard of care that would have been provided by a reasonably prudent psychiatrist in similar circumstances. The city faces liability in the case as they are the owners of the hospital, and therefore are represented by actions that the hospital staff took as representatives of the city entity.
- Recently, an 18-year-old Virginia woman who was a student a Barnard University was stabbed multiple times in her stomach by a group of muggers near Columbia University. The woman was taken to the hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries. At the time of the report, the muggers had not yet been identified or apprehended. However, if they are, they will face criminal charges for their actions. They also could be the subject of a wrongful death claim and be held civilly responsible for the damages the family encountered due to the death that was caused by their intentional and wrongful actions.
- Recently, it was reported that the 11 hospitals in New York City have been the subject of a combined total of 468 wrongful death claims in the past five years. The city has paid out $34 million to 56 families since 2014 and more than 400 wrongful death cases are pending. One of the biggest payouts was $3.2 million for the family of a woman who died six years after doctors in Brooklyn ignored her tuberculosis diagnosis and repeatedly botched her treatments, resulting in three weeks of declining health before she died of catastrophic organ failure in 2014. Another Brooklyn case involved a man losing his pregnant wife after physicians ignored her history of cardiac problems and failed to notice that an X-ray showed that her heart was enlarged. They also missed the symptoms of peritonitis. In 2017, the woman’s husband obtained a settlement of $900,000 in that case.
- Recently, a 67-year-old security guard who was working at the Central Park Tower during its construction was crushed to death by a large panel of glass. The family, who is currently seeking compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit, must prove that the man suffered pain after being struck by the panel—which weighed more than 2,000 pounds—to obtain compensation for pain and suffering. The development company that built the tower and its insurance company are arguing that the man did not suffer, in spite of horrific injuries including blunt trauma to the head, neck, and chest, and multiple broken bones. His doctor argued that, as severe as the injuries were, the man did not suffer injuries that would result in immediate death and was likely conscious for several minutes after the accident. The insurance company denied all of the family’s legal claims and refused to offer a settlement in the case. The lawsuit was filed in October 2018. Without the pain and suffering aspect of the claim, the case is likely not worth a whole lot, as the man—though employed—only made $32,000 per year.
Why You Need a Lawyer in a New York Wrongful Death Claim
After losing a loved one, family members are often distraught over the loss and frightened about what the future holds. They may be facing astronomical expenses related to treatment of the decedent’s final injuries. It is, to put it mildly, a bad time to be attempting to sort out a legal process. In addition, insurance companies providing policies to defendant’s may look to avoid a large payout by making a lowball offer of compensation during this time.
Never accept that offer without the guidance of an attorney who has experience with wrongful death cases as doing so could cause you to lose out on money that may be rightfully yours under the state’s wrongful death statute.
Hiring a lawyer to help you with your wrongful death claim is crucial. In addition to guidance through the complex process of filing a wrongful death claim, a lawyer may be able to provide you with other services, including:
- Establishing a value to your case that takes into consideration all of the expenses that can be legally claimed.
- Careful examination of the facts of the case to determine all sources of potential liability and insurance resources that may be accessed to pay out the claim.
- Knowledge of filing deadlines and other legal requirements that, if not followed, could result in the case being dismissed.
- Aggressive negotiation with insurance companies in the pursuit of a payout that fairly compensates the family for their damages.
- Skilled representation in litigation, including all pre-trial hearings and conferences, trial, and any post-trial appeals that are filed.
- Assistance with the collection of settlements or awards after the case concludes.
Call Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, if Someone You Love Died in an Accident Anywhere in New York
If you lost a loved one in New York due to someone else’s wrongful act, our experienced wrongful death attorneys would like to help.