Can I Sue if My Loved One Dies in a Fatal Car Accident? 

Can I Sue if My Loved One Dies in a Fatal Car Accident? 
Calendar icon November 28, 2023
Can I Sue if My Loved One Dies in a Fatal Car Accident? 


  • A wrongful death is a type of legal claim used when someone dies as a result of someone else’s carelessness.
  • A wrongful death lawsuit is similar to a personal injury lawsuit but filed by surviving family members rather than the victims themselves.
  • DUIs, speeding, and other types of negligent behavior are leading causes of fatal car accidents.
  • Working with an experienced fatal car accident lawyer can help you recover damages and rebuild your life.

Losing a loved one in a fatal car accident is devastating, but with over 40,000 car accident deaths per year in America, it is unfortunately common. In the aftermath of a fatal crash, survivors face overwhelming emotional pain, along with significant financial burdens.

Nothing can make up for the loss of a loved one, but filing a wrongful death lawsuit can provide a measure of justice and give you the financial breathing room to rebuild your life.

Understanding Wrongful Death in New York 

Wrongful death is a legal term used when someone dies as a result of someone’s negligence or other wrongdoing.

A wrongful death claim relies on a similar standard of negligence to a personal injury claim. To win a wrongful death suit, you must prove that:

  • The at-fault party owed a duty of care to the deceased. For example, a driver is responsible for operating their vehicle carefully and keeping everyone on the road safe.
  • The at-fault party breached their duty of care, acting negligently or carelessly.
  • Their wrongful action or negligence caused the death of a loved one.
  • Surviving family members have suffered damages as a result of the death. For example, experiencing financial hardships after losing the deceased’s income.

Unlike personal injury claims, wrongful death claims are filed by the victim’s next of kin and include a wider range of possible damages.

Eligibility to Sue for Wrongful Death in New York 

In New York State, only certain people can file a wrongful death claim. This includes the deceased’s spouse, parents, or children, or an official representative of the deceased’s estate.

If the deceased is married, their spouse and children have the first right to a wrongful death claim. If there are no surviving children or spouses, the deceased’s parents may file instead.

Causes and Liability in Fatal Car Accidents

Negligence plays a major role in fatal car accidents, with speeding, reckless driving, and drunk driving among the most common causes. Drunk driving is especially deadly: 35% of all fatal car accidents were caused by impaired driving.

New York follows a comparative fault system, in which damages are awarded based on each party’s share of fault. The key types of evidence used to establish fault include:

  • Police reports
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Expert testimony
  • Dashcam footage
  • Medical records
  • Photographs of the accident scene

It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to provide evidence for their wrongful death claim. An experienced wrongful death attorney like the team at Cellino Law can gather, organize, and present the evidence to give you the best possible case.

Compensation in Wrongful Death Cases

In New York State, wrongful death lawsuits can recover various damages to compensate family members for the loss of their loved ones. Possible damages include:

  • Medical expenses incurred between the time of the accident and the death of your loved one
  • Lost wages and loss of future wages that the deceased would have otherwise earned for their family
  • Pain and suffering experienced due to the loss of your loved one
  • Funeral and burial expenses to cover the cost of laying the deceased to rest
  • Loss of companionship to compensate family members for the loss of the love and support of their deceased loved one
  • And more, depending on the specifics of your case

New York State uses a complicated formula to evaluate wrongful death cases, taking into account factors like the age of the deceased, their life expectancy, and their earning potential. 

Damages can be difficult to calculate, and it’s important to work with an experienced wrongful death attorney who knows how to evaluate a fatal car accident claim.

The Timeline of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit 

A wrongful death lawsuit can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Here’s a brief look at what to expect along the way.

  • In your initial consultation, we’ll ask you about the wrongful death and the damages you’ve suffered as a result. This allows us to evaluate the strength of your case.
  • Our expert legal team will investigate the accident, gathering and preparing all available evidence.
  • We’ll prepare the paperwork and file your lawsuit, answering any questions you have along the way.
  • We will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to secure you the compensation you deserve.
  • If they do not agree to pay a fair settlement, we’ll take your case to trial and represent you in court.

How Cellino Law Can Help With Your Claim

Cellino Law is a leading personal injury law firm with experience winning wrongful death claims. We understand how hard the aftermath of a loved one’s death can be, and we’re committed to fighting for our clients.

The experienced legal team at Cellino Law will:

  • Investigate your case
  • Prepare evidence
  • File your lawsuit
  • Negotiate with insurance companies
  • Represent you in court if necessary

Call us at (888) 888-8888 or contact us online to get started with your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York?

The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in New York is two years from the date of the accident. After two years, you may lose the right to file a claim. Certain circumstances, like a criminal case associated with the accident, may change the timeline, so consult with a qualified attorney to evaluate your specific claim.

What if the at-fault party doesn’t have enough insurance coverage?

If the at-fault party’s insurance coverage doesn’t cover your damages, there are other options for compensation, including:

  • Uninsured Motorist coverage
  • The at-fault party’s personal assets
  • Government benefits

How are wrongful death settlements divided among family members?

In New York, the spouse and children of the deceased are given priority in settlement distributions. Other factors can influence the distribution, such as the ages and financial dependence of family members.

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Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.



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