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what is a wrongful death lawsuit

Wrongful death accidents are terrible to endure. Filing a lawsuit over the death of a loved one can be overwhelming and difficult to manage by yourself. Here is everything you need to know about wrongful death accidents in New York, and what one can expect the legal process to be like if a wrongful death attorney helps with your case.

What is a Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death is any death that occurs due to the actions or negligence of another person. It is not considered a crime, as wrongful deaths occur due to accidental circumstances or negligence, not out of any maliciousness or negative intent. In order to legally qualify as a wrongful death, the accident has to be proven to be the result of another person’s action, inaction or direct negligence. Otherwise, the death is just an accident.

A wrongful death is not the same as manslaughter. Generally, manslaughter requires some malicious intent. Where manslaughter involves negligence, it must be extreme.

Types of Wrongful Death Accidents

  • Motor vehicle accidents – a driver may be texting and driving and accidentally hit a pedestrian due to inattention
  • Medical malpractice accidents – a doctor, not paying attention or ignoring a patient’s reported symptoms, may prescribe them the wrong medication for their illness
  • Workplace fatalities – a construction company manager may skimp on safety equipment for his workers to lower the budget, resulting in a death
  • Slip and fall accidents – a company may fail to place a “wet floor” sign, causing someone to slip and hit their head

National Wrongful/Accidental Death Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017 there were:

  • 29.4 million emergency department visits for unintentional injuries
  • 169,936 unintentional injury deaths in total
  • 36,338 unintentional fall deaths
  • 40,231 motor vehicle traffic deaths
  • 64,795 unintentional poisoning deaths
  • 28,572 other accidental deaths

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim against a person or group who could be held liable for someone’s death. Wrongful death lawsuits are usually based upon claims that the death of an individual occurred directly or largely as a result of negligence, defective machinery or vehicles, or medical malpractice. 

Wrongful death lawsuits can be complex since many factors can contribute to the circumstances that led to an accidental death, including:

  • Was negligence intentional or excusable
  • How many individuals were ultimately responsible
  • Did the victim bear some responsibility for the accident

Wrongful death lawsuits are most often brought against individuals, companies, or other entities by family members or loved ones of the deceased.

New York Wrongful Death Laws and Lawsuit Requirements

New York’s wrongful death laws and requirements for pressing a suit dictate how these cases may begin and proceed. Relatives of the deceased including spouses, children, parents, or personal representatives for their estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Furthermore, there are certain grounds required to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York.

State Requirements for Wrongful Death Lawsuits

  • A person must have died
  • The death must have been caused by either negligence or provably wrongful conduct
  • The negligence or conduct could have been the subject of a personal injury or similar lawsuit, and could have led to recovered damages, if the victim had survived
  • One or more survivors or related victims have suffered damages as a result of the death

The last requirement means that the surviving family members or loved ones must have a reason to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to court. Reasons may include:

  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Loss of income/livelihood (if the deceased was a provider)
  • Loss of companionship

New York’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits

New York has a statute of limitations of two years for all wrongful death lawsuits. This means that wrongful death cases must be filed within two years of the deceased’s date of death. They do not need to be completed within this timeframe, just started prior to the limit. 

Wrongful death lawyers can help victims’ families begin this process and avoid crossing the statute of limitations while they grieve.

What Happens During a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit proceeds when a surviving family member, spouse, or head of estate brings the lawsuit to court and files it against an individual or group to hold them liable for the death in question.

Over the course of a case, wrongful death attorneys will seek to prove negligence or wrongful conduct on the part of the accused. For instance, in a medical malpractice wrongful death case, prosecuting lawyers may seek to prove that the medical practitioner(s) in question failed to use the correct instruments. They may also seek to prove that the overseeing hospital failed to assign suitably skilled personnel to an operation or patient.

The court will determine the amount of guilt or liability that the accused party holds, if any. This determination will affect the total damages that the accuser(s) can expect. 

Types of Damages Awarded for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in New York

New York wrongful death lawsuits can result in damages for the following:

  • Pain and suffering damages, intended to compensate victims for emotional and/or physical turmoil
  • Loss of future income and financial support
  • Funeral/burial costs and expenses
  • Medical expenses, both for the deceased and any other injured parties in the same accident
  • Loss of companionship, particularly for spouses
  • Loss of inheritance

New York is one of the few states that does not cap the damages a party may receive for pain and suffering. This means that a victim’s family or estate cannot be automatically denied the full compensation they are eligible for.

What is the Average Settlement for Wrongful Death?

The expected settlement for a New York wrongful death lawsuit heavily depends on the circumstances of the case and the level of negligence or liability the defendant is found responsible for. Settlement amounts can range from thousands to millions of dollars depending on aspects including:

  • Estimated pain and suffering for the victim
  • Damage to the victim in medical costs, both past and future
  • Estimated future income based on the victim’s age – for instance, if the victim was a working father and a sole provider, damages may be awarded to his family based on his projected earnings over several years

Average settlements are also determined by the strength of the cases presented by wrongful death lawyers.

Find a New York Wrongful Death Attorney

If you need assistance filing a wrongful death claim, contact Sobo & Sobo. Their attorneys can help you win the compensation necessary to help recover from your loss. As they already have experience handling and winning wrongful death cases, Sobo & Sobo’s wrongful death lawyers are ready to listen, assist in any way they can, and walk with you every step of the way to court. Don’t hesitate to contact them online or call 855-468-7626 for a free consultation.