Losing a loved one is a painful experience, and words can’t begin to express the grief. Adding insult to injury, however, is the fact that many deaths are avoidable. When someone dies because of another person’s negligence, the surviving family members have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. Having experienced counsel is essential to making the strongest possible claim.
Let the compassionate team of Miller, Montiel, & Strano, P.C. help. We represent the survivors of deceased victims in demanding their right to wrongful death compensation.
What Is A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death is closely related to personal injury. In fact, it can be thought of as an extension of personal injury that applies when the victim dies from his or her injuries. If an individual dies because of someone’s negligent acts or omissions, certain surviving relatives (generally, immediate family members) can bring a wrongful death claim against the responsible party.
Because this area of law is similar to personal injury, many of the same kinds of accidents can give rise to a wrongful death claim. They include:
- Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Sidewalk accidents
- Construction site accidents
- Slip, trip and fall and other premises liability cases
- Uber and Lyft accidents
- Bus, train, and public transportation accidents
In addition to proving that the victim died because of another person’s negligence, the eligible survivors are entitled to money damages including loss of support and guidance and the decedent’s estate, often the same family members, is entitled to money damages for the injury, pain and suffering of the decedent sustained between the time of the accident and the time of death.
Who Can File A Claim?
The victim’s personal representative (the individual who handles the deceased victim’s estate) is the only one who can file a wrongful death claim in New York. This lawsuit will be filed on behalf of such family members as the spouse, children, and parents, if they are considered by New York law, distributees (a person entitled to share in the decedent’s estate).
What Are The Elements Of A Wrongful Death Claim?
Because wrongful death lawsuits are similar to personal injury, the elements that must be proven are as well. It is up to the personal representative, working with an attorney, to establish the following:
- Duty of care: The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased victim. The duty of care often arises out of the relationship between the deceased and defendant. For instance, if a fatal car accident was involved, the negligent vehicle operator owed a duty of safe operation to the deceased.
- Breach: The plaintiff must show the defendant violated the duty of care by acting negligently. Negligence is a failure to act as a reasonably prudent person would, and can be evidenced by any number of acts or omissions. Speeding, failing to stop at a stop sign or failing to yield the right of way are some examples of such acts or omissions.
- Causation: This means the negligent conduct was a cause of the death of the deceased victim. However, the plaintiff is not required to prove the negligence was the only cause of the death of the decedent.
- Damages: The damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit are similar to those of personal injury. Although currently family members cannot recover for the emotional loss they suffer from, a bill is now pending to allow such recovery.
Which Damages Are Available?
Because every wrongful death claim is different, the type and amount of potential damages in your case will depend on the circumstances surrounding the death of the victim. For most claims, however, these damages will be available:
- Medical costs incurred by the victim due to his or her fatal injuries
- Burial, funeral, and cremation expenses for the victim
- Lost wages that the victim was earning and would have continued to earn had he or she lived
- The value of support and services that the deceased provided, such as health insurance
- Loss of parental guidance, nurturing, and education that children of a deceased parent lost
- Loss of or reduction in the inheritance that the victim would have left behind
- Pain and suffering that the victim experienced before death (not the survivors’ pain and suffering)
The age and life expectancy of the victim at the time of death will play a major role in assessing the amount of these damages. As an example, a young parent may have had a significant number of years of earning power left before dying. The victim’s child may therefore have the right to claim a large sum of lost potential wages.
How A Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You
Another feature that wrongful death claims share with personal injury is their complexity. Knowing the law, including the relevant rules concerning evidence and civil procedure, is only the beginning. A skilled lawyer will also know how to properly value your case so you and your family receive fair and just compensation.
To that end, it may be necessary to rely upon expert witness testimony to demonstrate certain information to a jury. An expert witness is a person with technical or specialized knowledge who can explain various concepts in court. For instance, a forensic pathologist may be able to discuss the amount of time the deceased victim experienced pain and suffering before passing. Our firm has a network of reliable expert witnesses ready to serve the needs of our clients.
Finally, your wrongful death attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement for your claim. As with personal injury lawsuits, many wrongful death lawsuits settle before reaching the trial. If the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company offers to settle the case, your lawyer will discuss with you the advantages of settlement versus the risk of taking the matter to trial. That way, you and your family will be able to make an informed decision on whether to accept the offer.
Contact Our New York Wrongful Death Attorney
No amount of money can bring back a loved one who suffered a wrongful death. But a dedicated attorney can help you and your family win the compensation you deserve. Contact Miller, Montiel, & Strano, P.C. today to learn more.
Miller, Montiel, & Strano, P.C. help clients with their wrongful death claims throughout New York including Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens, and Brooklyn.