Losing a loved one is a devastating experience, and the pain can be compounded when someone else’s negligence or recklessness causes their death. In such cases, a wrongful death suit can provide some sense of justice and closure to the grieving family.
However, navigating the legal process can be overwhelming and confusing, especially for those dealing with grief and emotional trauma. Here, you can learn how to file a wrongful death suit, including the laws, procedures, and statistics involved.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal term used to describe a situation where another individual or entity’s negligent, intentional, or reckless actions cause a person’s death. In such cases, the surviving family members or the deceased’s estate can file a lawsuit against the responsible party to seek compensation for their losses.
Wrongful death suits are usually brought in civil court, and the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, who must establish that the defendant’s actions or omissions caused the death.
Laws Governing Wrongful Death Suits
In New York, wrongful death is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person or entity. The New York Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL) govern wrongful death actions in the state. Only the designated “distributees” of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim in New York. These typically include a surviving spouse, children, or parents of the deceased, although other relatives or dependents may also be included.
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in New York is two years from the date of the deceased’s death. This means the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the death, or the right to bring the claim may be lost. It is crucial to act quickly and seek the assistance of an experienced wrongful death attorney to ensure that the case is filed within the statute of limitations.
In a wrongful death suit in New York, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant’s actions or omissions caused the death. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased, that the defendant breached that duty of care, that the breach of duty caused the death, and that the plaintiff suffered damages due to the death.
Damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death suit in New York include economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses may include medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and other financial losses resulting from the death. Non-economic losses may include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress.
It is important to note that New York also has a separate statute that governs survival actions. A survival action is a legal claim arising from injuries or damages the deceased sustained prior to death. In a survival action, the deceased’s estate can bring a claim seeking compensation for damages the deceased could have recovered had they survived.
Proving Wrongful Death
Proving wrongful death can be a complex and challenging process, as the plaintiff must establish that the defendant’s actions or omissions were the direct cause of the death. To do so, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- Duty of Care: The plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. This means that the defendant had a legal obligation to act reasonably and prudently to avoid causing harm to others.
- Breach of Duty: The plaintiff must show that the defendant breached their duty of care by acting in a negligent, reckless, or intentional manner. This means that the defendant failed to uphold their legal obligation to act reasonably and prudently and that their actions or omissions directly caused the death.
- Causation: The plaintiff must establish a causal link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the deceased’s death. This means the plaintiff must show that the death would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions or omissions.
- Damages: The plaintiff must prove that they suffered damages as a result of the death, including financial losses, emotional distress, and other losses that resulted from the death of their loved one.
To prove these elements, the plaintiff must gather evidence and testimony from various sources, including witnesses, medical professionals, and experts in the relevant fields. This evidence may include medical records, police reports, witness statements, and other documentation that can support the plaintiff’s case.
The Role of an Attorney in a Wrongful Death Suit
Wrongful death suits can be emotionally and legally challenging. It is highly recommended that individuals seek the assistance of an experienced wrongful death attorney to guide them through the process. An attorney can help the plaintiff in the following ways:
- Provide legal guidance: An attorney can help the plaintiff understand the laws governing wrongful death suits in their state and guide them through the legal process.
- Conduct investigations: An attorney can gather evidence, interview witnesses, and consult with experts to build a strong case for the plaintiff.
- Negotiate settlements: An attorney can negotiate with the defendant’s legal team to reach a settlement that provides fair compensation for the plaintiff.
- Represent the plaintiff in court: An attorney can represent the plaintiff in court and argue their case before a judge and jury.
Wrongful Death Statistics
Wrongful death cases are unfortunately not uncommon, and they can occur in a variety of circumstances, including car accidents, workplace accidents, medical malpractice, and other situations where negligence or recklessness may be present.
Here are some statistics on wrongful death cases in the United States:
- In 2019, there were over 169,000 unintentional injury deaths in the United States, which included deaths resulting from accidents, poisonings, and other incidents.
- According to the National Safety Council, the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths in the United States include motor vehicle accidents, falls, poisonings, and drowning.
- Medical malpractice is also a common cause of wrongful death. A study published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimated that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die each year in the United States due to medical errors.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,333 fatal workplace injuries in the United States in 2019. Transportation incidents, fall, and contact with objects and equipment were the leading causes of workplace deaths.
Contact The Law Offices of Joseph J. Perrini, III, for Help with Your Wrongful Death Claim
Losing a loved one is a painful experience, especially when someone else’s negligence or recklessness caused their death. In such cases, a wrongful death suit can provide some sense of justice and closure to the grieving family.
However, navigating the legal process can be challenging, and working with an experienced wrongful death attorney is crucial to ensure that the case is filed properly and that the plaintiff’s rights are protected.
By understanding the laws and procedures governing wrongful death suits and seeking an attorney’s assistance, individuals can seek compensation for their losses and hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.
While no compensation can ever fully compensate for the loss of a loved one, a wrongful death suit can provide some degree of closure and help the surviving family members move forward with their lives.
Contact our office to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.