The unexpected death of a loved one can leave you in a state of shock, depression, and sadness. Nothing hurts than the reality that you will never see them, hear them talk, smile, and even laugh. Losing someone is something that you might never completely heal from, but filing a wrongful death claim can help you deal with the grief if the negligence of another party caused it. It will also help you and the family take care of the expenses that come with unexpected departures, such as burial expenses, loss of income, and other crucial matters. Having a wrongful death lawyer in Long Island, NY, will help you deal with the problematic situation, and help you obtain justice.
If you have lost someone through someone else’s negligence, contact Cellino Law. We have experienced Long Island wrongful death lawyers to help you get justice for your family. We understand that wrongful death claims are complex and challenging to prove. Still, we will do extensive research and consult experts to ensure that we can hold the responsible party accountable. So, if you are wondering what is legally considered as wrongful death in Long Island, who is entitled to make a claim, and how a Long Island personal injury lawyer can help, worry not! Below is a guide to help with these and more questions that you might have.
Table of Contents
How is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of New York?
Every state in the U.S has its specific laws regarding wrongful death claims, and New York is no different. Under New York law, particular things must be proved to establish a wrongful death claim. The New York Estates, Powers and Trust Codes Part 4 requires the below five elements as proof to establish a wrongful death claim:
- A death occurred.
- The wrongful acts of the defendant caused it.
- It is then followed by a cause of action that the deceased could have pursued in court if they were still alive.
- Survival by at least one person who has suffered a loss due to the death of their loved one.
- The survivors are seeking damages that the estate can recover by law from the defendant.
However, it is crucial to note that New York law does not recognize claims filed as a result of the death of an unborn fetus, even though it was a result of a wrongful act, according to Endresz v. Friedberg, 24 N.Y.2d 478.
It is crucial to note that New York law does not provide complete liability for someone’s wrongful conduct. An example of this is a situation where the deceased negligently contributed to their injuries. In such an instance, the defendant will only be liable for the damages only in proportion to the defendant’s fault.
According to New York law, negligence is the failure to act with a reasonable amount of care. Examples of this include:
- A construction accident whereby the site manager did not take the necessary safety precautions.
- A car crash where the driver was drunk or driving recklessly.
- Death as a result of the assault of the victim.
- Medical error by a physician and other health care providers leading to the death of the patient.
- A defective product sold by a manufacturer that results in the death of consumers.
- Pedestrian accident fatalities.
- Nursing home abuse or neglect.
Who is Able to File a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?
According to New York State law, the decedent’s estate’s personal representative is responsible for filing the wrongful death claim. Even though you are a surviving family member, and are not the personal representative, you will not be able to bring the claim to court. The personal representative represents the administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate and is appointed by the Surrogate’s court. They should be named in the will or appointed by the court on behalf of the family members, including:
- The decedent’s spouse.
- The decedent’s parents.
- The decedent’s children.
- If there is no spouse, children, or parent alive, then other family members, such as the deceased’s siblings.
- If no one else is available, then the estate’s personal representative will recover the damages.
- If damages are awarded, the personal representative holds the award in trust for the surviving family members.
What Types of Damages are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The damages recoverable in a wrongful death case depend on the facts surrounding the case. This means that every case is different, and what happened in one situation may not occur in another. New York courts have awarded damages in wrongful death lawsuits for the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses for the deceased.
- Lost inheritance suffered by the surviving children.
- Lost benefits and wages between the date when the deceased got their final injury, and their time of death.
- Reasonable medical and healthcare expenses related to the deceased person’s final illness or injuries. If they received medical treatment after the accident that resulted in their last injury, the treatment cost might be recovered through the wrongful death claim.
- The value of support and services that the deceased provided to their family members.
- Interest on the damages award that is calculated from the date of death.
- Pain and suffering endured by the deceased due to their final illness and injury. This may include mental distress such as pre-impact terror a few minutes before death.
- Loss of future earnings. Here, families may recover damages involving wages that the decedent would have been earning if they were not dead, and were still employed.
- Value of parental care and guidance to the surviving children.
Once damages are established, they are usually distributed to the deceased’s beneficiaries. The personal representative distributes these damages in proportion to the financial injuries suffered.
Can a Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages in New York?
In some rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded to the surviving beneficiaries, in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are usually the extra money that the defendant will be required to pay by the court if their actions were deemed reckless or malicious intent in their wrongful acts. These damages are usually meant to be punishment for wrongful actions and prevent the defendant from taking similar actions in the future.
How does the court determine punitive damages? One method of doing so is to determine whether the defendant acted with gross negligence. Gross negligence is different from ordinary negligence in that the former refers to a situation where the party at fault acted with conscious disregard for other people’s safety and life. The latter requires that the defendant acts without reasonable care.
Examples of cases where punitive damages may be awarded include:
- A car accident caused by a drunk or reckless driver.
- Defective or harmful products manufactured in ignorance by corporations.
- Medical malpractice cases where doctors change medical records to hide their mistakes.
In New York, punitive damage awards that exceed ten times the compensatory damages will be overturned as they will be deemed excessive. Punitive damages are generally only awarded in civil courts, but they may be awarded in wrongful death lawsuits, but rare cases.
The defendant must be found to be intentionally malicious so that the punitive damages can be justified. The family can file for punitive damages in New York, but only as compensation for the pain and suffering that the deceased experienced before death. Note that you cannot recover any damages for the pain, broken heart, and sadness that you feel as a result of the death of your loved one.
How is Negligence Proven in a New York Wrongful Death Case?
In a wrongful death case, the plaintiff must provide substantial evidence that the defendant’s actions or lack thereof caused the death of the deceased. This is the same evidence that the deceased would have provided if they were alive. To prove negligence in New York, he or she has to demonstrate the following:
This is also known as due care or due diligence. For the defendant to be liable for negligence, they must have owed the decedent a duty of due care. This means that they must keep the other person safe or refrain from doing something that could harm them. For example, in the case of reckless driving, the plaintiff may argue that the defendant owed the decedent a duty of due care to operate the vehicle efficiently. The judge, and not the jury, will decide if the defendant owed a duty of due care, depending on the factors of the case.
Breach Of Duty
If it has been determined that duty ought to have existed, the plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant breached that duty. The plaintiff will need to prove that the defendant did something that no reasonable person would do and breached that duty. Here, they should focus on convincing the jury rather than the judge, that their version is more than 50% likely to be the truth.
Here, the plaintiff must show, without doubt, that the cause of death was the defendant’s breach of duty. This can be quite hard to prove, in most cases. You will need all the evidence you can find to verify that the incident was caused by the defendant’s actions or lack thereof.
Along with breach of duty and causation, the plaintiff must prove that the decedent suffered damages. In wrongful death cases, the first damage will be death, but there are other types such as pain, funeral expenses, and medical bills. You will need witness statements, photo evidence, and all kinds of substantial evidence to prove to the jury that damages were incurred.
How do You File a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?
Losing a loved one can leave you distraught and confused. Dealing with legal issues is the last thing on your mind, and this is where a wrongful death lawyer comes in. They will take the burden off you and help you with your case. Talk to your lawyer, and let them help you deal with the situation. They will help you start your wrongful death claim by:
- Collecting all the evidence that pertains to your case, such as witness statements, expert witness statements from people who can help piece together what happened, and any video and photo evidence of the incident.
- They will help navigate the insurance company’s interactions and prevent you from taking a settlement offer that you do not deserve.
- Offering skilled representation in litigation.
It is crucial to note that in Long Island, New York, you have two years from the date of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Claims against a public entity must be filed within 90 days of death.
What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
Both wrongful death claims and estate claims arise from the same event; the wrongful death of a loved one. When someone passes, the wrongful death action is usually filed by the surviving family members through the personal representative. In contrast, estate claims are submitted by the estate’s representative. The personal representative will seek compensation for loss of income, funeral expenses, and value for parental care of children Wrongful death actions, in general, compensate the victim’s surviving family members for the financial loss.
Estate claims are filed under survival action lawsuits in New York. They are usually filed directly on behalf of the deceased and used mainly where the victim did not die immediately but survived for some time after the incident. Damages here include medical expenses compensation and the deceased’s pain and suffering between the time of the accident and their death. The damages will be paid to the victim’s estate and paid out to the heirs of the estate.
Review Your Claim With a Long Island Wrongful Death Lawyer at Cellino Law
A wrongful death claim will allow you to hold the parties responsible accountable and help you get compensation for the family’s surviving members. Death is gruesome, and dealing with a lawsuit does not make things any easier. However, hiring a wrongful death lawyer will help you get closure and ensure that you obtain justice. This is where we come in. If you have lost someone due to negligence contact our Long Island personal injury firm. We will work tirelessly to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.