There is nothing more difficult than saying goodbye to someone you love, especially if their passing was unexpected. But knowing that the death shouldn’t have happened in the first place only deepens the tragedy.
A wrongful death can leave you and your family to grapple with difficult legal and financial issues, even in your time of grief.
You may be saddled with unanticipated financial burdens, for example: the costs of funeral and burial, medical bills left behind from your loved one’s end-of-life care, or the sudden loss of financial support that the deceased had been contributing to your household.
You might also have counted on your loved one to provide other kinds of assistance around the house, from parental support to household services and beyond. It might seem that your whole life has changed on a dime.
This is to say nothing, of course, of the profound emotional impact that the sudden loss of life entails. Spouses, parents, children, and other loved ones are left devastated. They will need strong emotional support and healing for the long road ahead.
As New York wrongful death lawyers, we help grieving family members recover the financial compensation they need and deserve after a wrongful death.
At Lever & Ecker, PLLC, we have many years of experience in helping families navigate a sophisticated claims process during some of the most difficult days of their lives. We focus on providing the sensitive yet diligent legal representation that these situations call for.
We understand that, in the days and weeks following a tragedy, legal action may very well be the last thing on your mind. But these situations give rise to important decisions and considerations that simply do not go away, and the choices you make now may have profound ramifications for you and your family in the future.
In the sections that follow, we will explain what wrongful death is, how the laws in New York work, the compensation you might be entitled to, and how our team can shoulder the legal burden while you focus on spending time with your family in mourning.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death is the loss of life caused by someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. This includes deaths caused by irresponsible or unlawful behavior, or by another party’s breach of their legal duty of care.
New York law allows certain close family members to recover financial compensation for their losses by filing a wrongful death claim, which may take the form of an insurance claim or a civil lawsuit. In some cases, the amount of compensation can be substantial.
It’s important to understand that “wrongful” doesn’t mean “intentional.” While intentional deaths (such as those caused by murder, homicide, or manslaughter) can fall within the category of wrongful death, many wrongful deaths happen entirely by accident. For example, a drunk driver may be liable for the wrongful death of another motorist, even though he or she never meant for anyone to get hurt.
It’s also important to understand that wrongful death claims are entirely separate from any criminal proceedings that might occur in relation to the death. Your civil rights under New York wrongful death law do not depend on the outcome of any criminal proceeding.
Who Is Responsible for a Wrongful Death Accident?
Wrongful death claims are filed against the party whose negligence or recklessness caused the death. In some cases, more than one party might have been negligent, in which case claims can generally be filed against each responsible party.
Even if the deceased was partially responsible for his or her own death, it may still be possible to seek a claim for wrongful death compensation against the other parties whose negligence contributed to the loss.
In many cases, the responsible party will have an insurance policy that covers the unintentional loss of life, in which case the insurer will ultimately have the responsibility of paying the claim.
Unfortunately, insurance companies tend to mount aggressive defenses against wrongful death cases. Many families find it very difficult to reach a fair resolution without hiring an experienced New York wrongful death lawyer.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in New York?
Technically, the only person allowed to file a claim for wrongful death in New York is the personal representative for the deceased’s estate (which may or may not be a family member). The personal representative is typically appointed in the deceased person’s Last Will and Testament or will otherwise be appointed by a court of law.
However, if any money is awarded on behalf of the family for their losses related to the death, the personal representative will essentially hold those funds in trust for the family members / beneficiaries. The personal representative does not personally benefit from those funds unless he or she is also one of the family member beneficiaries of the estate.
Whether you are the personal representative in your situation or you have concerns about who in your family will be able to recover compensation, we encourage you to contact the New York wrongful death lawyers at Lever & Ecker, PLLC to discuss the matter in detail.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Accidents
A wrongful death claim can arise out of virtually any type of accident or personal injury situation.
Some of the most common causes of wrongful death in New York include:
- Car accidents
- Drunk driving accidents
- Commercial truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home negligence
- Workplace accidents
- Defective products
- Dangerous pharmaceuticals
- Slip and fall accidents
- Animal attacks / dog bites
- Drowning, boating, and recreational accidents
- Assault, battery, criminal acts
- Homicide (manslaughter, murder)
The New York wrongful death lawyers at Lever & Ecker, PLLC can help with these or any other causes of fatality.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Wrongful Death Claim?
New York’s wrongful death laws are extremely complex. While there is nothing in the law that requires you to hire a lawyer, trying to handle these matters on your own can be extremely challenging and is often a mistake. Errors are easy to make.
Wrongful death claims frequently involve multiple, intersecting areas of law: wrongful death statutes, personal injury law, estate law, worker’s compensation law, criminal law, and so on.
The particular issues involved will depend on the specific facts surrounding the death. It’s critical that you understand which laws are relevant to your situation and how they apply to the facts surrounding your claim and your family’s unique makeup and structure.
As New York wrongful death lawyers, we are available to represent and advise:
Personal representatives: If you have been appointed as the personal representative for an estate, you have an enormous responsibility in front of you. The burden can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to handle it on your own. Lever & Ecker, PLLC can represent you on behalf of the estate, pursuing full and fair wrongful death compensation under the law. By hiring our firm, you can rest assured that you are meeting your responsibilities with respect to the wrongful death claim.
Family members: Even if you aren’t the personal representative, you and your family members may be directly affected by what happens with the wrongful death case. We can help you understand the process and advocate for your best interests.
Hiring the right New York wrongful death lawyer could make all the difference in the outcome of the claim for you and your family.
What Can I Be Compensated for in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Every situation is different. The specific damages available in a given situation will depend on a number of factors, including but not necessarily limited to:
- The nature of the death and its cause
- The cost of medical care between the time of injury and death
- The deceased person’s income & projected future earnings
- The value of any services or support the person was providing
- Any coverage limits on the relevant insurance policies
- How much time has passed
While it is not possible to predict a particular outcome in advance, it may be helpful for you to understand the types of damages that are often awarded in wrongful death cases in New York. These include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages between the time of injury and death
- Medical expenses between the time of injury and death
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased between the time of injury and death
- Loss of future earnings by the deceased
- Loss of future inheritance by the deceased’s beneficiaries
- The value of lost household services or other support
- The value of lost parental support to the deceased’s children
- The value of lost financial support to family members and dependents
- Interest (9% on the damages award, calculated from the date of death)
Note that, unlike in some other states, it is generally not possible for surviving family members in New York to claim compensation for their own personal mental anguish, nor for their own loss of love, affection, consortium, companionship, or sexual intimacy.
How Long Does a Wrongful Death Claim Take?
Because every case is different, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long a wrongful death claim takes in New York. Some claims resolve in a matter of months; others take a year or longer.
The period of time required will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of the evidence in the case, the court’s calendar (if the claim proceeds to trial), and the extent to which the insurance company is cooperative.
If there are complex or unresolved issues concerning the disposition of the estate itself, that can cause additional delay.
At Lever & Ecker, PLLC, we understand how important it is for you and your family to be free from the burden of unresolved legal issues relating to the death. As New York wrongful death lawyers, we work hard to resolve these cases as efficiently as possible. At the same time, we recognize that achieving true justice can take time.
While we do want to work diligently and avoid undue delay, we also want to make sure we are never rushing a claim or doing anything to compromise our clients’ best interests. We are committed to keeping our clients informed about the status of their claim — as well as our expectations and strategies — at all times.
Schedule a Free Consultation with our New York Wrongful Death Lawyers
If you have lost someone you love because of another party’s negligence or carelessness, no matter what the circumstances may be, we encourage you to contact our office as soon as possible to learn more about your options.
Please do not sign a settlement agreement with an insurance company or any other party until you have talked with a lawyer. Doing so can permanently impact your legal rights. You and your family may be entitled to more compensation than you realize.
Lever & Ecker, PLLC is a New York personal injury law firm located in White Plains and serving clients throughout the state, including New York City’s five boroughs (The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island), as well as Westchester County, Rockland County, Long Island, and beyond.
We are proud to offer bilingual legal representation for our Spanish-speaking clients.
We will not charge a fee for our services unless and until we get you money. Your initial consultation is completely free with no obligations whatsoever.
To schedule your confidential consultation, please call 914-288-9191 (in White Plains) or 212-766-5204 (in Manhattan), or simply contact us online.