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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York?


The loss of a loved one is tragic, no matter the circumstances. Sometimes, however, that tragedy worsens. It could be marked by unfairness or wrongdoing that demands justice and accountability.

If negligence, recklessness, or malicious intent directly leads to death, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. These suits are classified as personal injury claims, but the injured party is killed.

In this article, we explore who is eligible to file a wrongful death suit under New York law.

Legal Grounds for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

New York has conditions you must meet to file a viable wrongful death suit.

  1. The death must have been caused, in whole or in part, by the defendant's wrongful conduct. The defendant is the person you are suing.
  2. The personal injury claim must be valid, even if the deceased had survived.
  3. The death resulted in specific losses to the deceased's heirs or beneficiaries. Lastly, there must be recoverable damages.

The Role of Negligence in Wrongful Death Cases

Negligence plays a crucial role in wrongful death cases. In legal terms, “negligence” refers to a failure to act with a level of reasonable care. For instance, when someone speeds, they neglect to obey traffic laws, and they endanger others.

You must establish four different elements to prove negligence:

  1. Duty
    The defendant had a duty of care to the deceased, meaning they were responsible for keeping the deceased free from danger.
  2. Breach
    The defendant breached their duty of care.
  3. Damages
    The breach directly resulted in the death and subsequent damages.

Filing for Wrongful Death in NY

Immediate Family Members Begin the Claim

In New York, the immediate family generally initiates the claim. Eligible people include spouses, children, and parents of the deceased. However, NY has some legal hurdles to jump before the case goes through.

These family members do not directly file the claim, even though they are the ones who stand to benefit from the claim.

Legal Representatives File the Claim

When someone dies, another person must manage their estate. This manager is called the “personal representative (PR)” in New York. The PR’s role is to act in the best interests of the estate and the surviving family members. A person can name a PR in their will, or the court can appoint a PR after someone dies.

The personal representative is the one who must directly file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Exceptions to the Rule: Other Parties Who Can File

As with most legal processes, there are some exceptions. In some cases, other relatives like siblings or grandparents may be able to file a claim. To do so, they must prove they were financially dependent on the deceased.

Each wrongful death case is unique. If you are curious about your eligibility, make sure to consult with an attorney.

The Process of Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York

Statute of Limitations

A “statute of limitations” is the legal time limit you have to file a case. For a wrongful death case in New York, this period is typically two years from the date of the person's death. Missing this deadline can mean that you won’t be able to file, so get help from a lawyer as soon as possible.

Required Documentation and Evidence

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit requires substantial paperwork and evidence of negligence.

Required forms and proof include:

  • Medical records
  • The death certificate
  • Proof of financial and emotional losses
  • Evidence of the defendant's negligence

Gathering this evidence can be a complex process, but a skilled attorney can guide you through the process, helping you build a strong case.

Damages and Compensation in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Damages You Can Claim

“Damages” is the legal term for the harm you suffered through someone else’s negligence. When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you are asking to be paid back for these damages.

You can include the following damages in your wrongful death claim:

  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of benefits
  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of the deceased's expected earnings

Calculating Compensation in Wrongful Death Cases

These calculations can be complex. They consider various factors like the deceased's age, health, life expectancy, earning capacity, and the financial and emotional impact the death had on the surviving family members. Your lawyer can help you understand how these factors apply to your case and what compensation you could receive.

Distribution of Compensation Among Eligible Parties

When a family wins a wrongful death lawsuit, the money is distributed among the eligible parties. In NY, these family members include the deceased's spouse, children, and parents. Distribution is based on the losses suffered by each individual, which can vary greatly.

If another person’s action led to the loss of a loved one, Belushin Law Firm, P.C. may be able to help. You can schedule a free consultation with our team by calling (888) 918-9890 or filling out our online contact form.

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