Of all the things you need to do while grieving the death of a loved one, filing a lawsuit is probably not at the top of your to-do list. But if your loved one’s death resulted from the negligence of another person, a death that could have been avoided, it should at least be in the top ten. Filing a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of a deceased person is known as a “wrongful death” claim.
In other words, the death wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the negligence of the other party. Had the deceased lived, he or she may have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit for themselves. As the deceased’s personal representative or family member, filing the claim will help bring justice for them and recover financial damages to help with the expenses of losing a loved one.
Some of the most common causes of wrongful death include:
• Vehicular accidents, such as auto, truck, motorcycle, bicycle
• Drunk driving accidents
• Defective products, such as prescription drugs, consumer goods, toys, and appliances
• Medical malpractice
• Workplace accidents, such as construction
• Aviation accidents
• Nursing home negligence or abuse
• Premises liability accidents such as slip-and-fall or inadequate security
• Criminal activity
Wrongful death can happen in nearly any type of circumstances due to negligence or lack of care that could have prevented the death.
Although negligence is usually thought of as a civil matter, some of these negligent actions can also be considered criminal. A wrongful death suit is civil and is separate from any criminal actions but the defendant may additionally be charged criminally in the death by the state.
Filing The Lawsuit
New York requires that a wrongful death claim be filed by a “personal representative” of the deceased’s estate within the two-year statute of limitations. A family member cannot file this lawsuit unless they are also a personal representative. A deceased person’s spouse, children, parents, grandparents, and siblings may be able to collect damages, but it will depend on the circumstances.
While the first thought is to sue the person responsible for the wrongful death, that may not be wise. If the negligent party has no assets or resources, getting a judgment will be an expensive waste of time. Usually, lawsuits are filed against entities, since they are generally well insured against losses such as these.
Investigation begins immediately after you hire your attorney, who examines the evidence, reports, medical and police records, financial statements, and other related documents. Part of the evidence includes proving the individual has died, which is either:
• A certified copy of their death certificate from the New York State Department of Health
• A signed statement from the attending physician, the funeral director, or the institution where the individual passed away verifying their death
• A certified copy of an autopsy report, police report, scene investigation report, or report from another state authority
• Sworn statements from two individuals who have personal knowledge of the deceased’s passing, including information about the time, date, and cause of death who can swear to the details precisely
How long the case will take is a difficult question to answer. The timeline depends on the difficulty of the case, how much work is involved to bring it (including discovery), whether the case settles or is taken to trial, along the length of the court’s docket.
Your Loved One Deserves Justice
We understand the grief after losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence. No, a lawsuit will not bring them back but can offer some respite knowing that they received justice, and you’ll have compensation to cover losses. A wrongful death claim case is complicated, so it’s important to seek out legal counsel who understands these types of cases.
Our wrongful death lawyers have the experience to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions and bring you the maximum compensation so you can take care of yourself and your family. Call our New York City office today at (212) 777-9400 (or use our contact form) to schedule your free consultation with our attorneys.