The ABCs on wrongful death lawsuits in New York


The untimely death of a loved one can send you in an emotional and financial tailspin, especially if your loved one’s death was someone else’s fault. You are left grieving and likely burdened with medical bills, funeral expenses and the loss of income the deceased provided.

You want to hold the at-fault party responsible for the death. New York law provides a means for securing compensation in such situations: a wrongful death lawsuit.

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is filed when a person dies due to the negligent actions or inactions of another, and the deceased could have pursued a personal injury lawsuit had they survived. For example, if a person is killed in a car crash caused by another driver’s lack of due care or dies due to the neglectful care of a medical professional, these might be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed by a personal representative on behalf of the deceased’s survivors. Wrongful death lawsuits are not filed directly by the survivors themselves. Only certain survivors have the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. This is referred to as having “standing.”

Most wrongful death lawsuits can only be filed within two years of the deceased’s passing. This timeframe is referred to as the “statute of limitations.”

The point of a wrongful death lawsuit is for the deceased’s survivors to collect compensation for the damages they suffered due to their loved one’s untimely passing. Some of these damages might include funeral costs, medical bills, loss of financial support and the deceased’s pain and suffering prior to death. Unlike other states, the deceased’s survivors cannot be compensated for their own mental anguish or loss of companionship.

Wrongful Death Claims Are Civil Actions

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action pursued in civil court. There may be a criminal case associated with the same death, but this does not preclude the deceased’s survivors from pursuing a wrongful death claim at the same time. A family could succeed in their wrongful death lawsuit even if the negligent party was found “not guilty” in a criminal trial.

All of this might make it seem like wrongful death lawsuits are relatively straightforward. However, it takes nuance and a strong understanding of New York law to prove negligence or medical malpractice in a wrongful death lawsuit. With help, it might be possible to prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit.


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