Accidents of all kinds are common in New York and throughout the US, but you may not realize how often these incidents can be deadly. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there were 213,699 people killed in 2018 after suffering unintentional injuries in accidents, many of which could have been prevented. These tragedies are horrific for victims, but surviving loved ones also suffer tremendous losses. Fortunately, families do have legal options to recover compensation through a wrongful death claim.
If someone close to you died in an accident, you are probably wondering how these cases work from a legal standpoint. As a New York wrongful death lawyer can explain, this type of legal action falls under the umbrella of personal injury and bears many of the same characteristics, such as:
- Most fatal accidents occur because of another person’s negligence;
- Like personal injury matters, many wrongful death cases stem from traffic accidents, slip and fall incidents, medical malpractice, and related causes; and,
- In most situations, your first step in recovering compensation is filing an insurance claim. You will need to file a lawsuit if the insurer refuses to settle.
However, these factors are where most similarities end. New York wrongful death claims are very different from other personal injury cases in other ways, such as:
Legal Standing for Seeking Compensation: An injured victim is typically the person who is entitled to bring a claim for monetary damages against a negligent party, a liability concept known as having legal “standing.” When the victim died instead of merely being injured, there are other individuals who have standing to seek compensation under wrongful death principles. In New York, you may qualify to file an insurance claim and/or sue in court if you are the deceased victim’s:
- Surviving spouse;
- Adult child or minor child acting through a guardian;
- Surviving parents; or,
- The personal representative of the decedent’s estate, who was either named in a will or appointed as administrator by a New York probate court.
Individuals Entitled to Compensation: In a personal injury case, it is the victim who suffers losses and who is in the position to seek monetary damages to recoup them. A wrongful death claim is different because it is the survivors who may obtain compensation; in a sense, the surviving family members are the victims when they lose a loved one. Through a claim or civil suit, the distribution of damages under New York law is as follows:
- The surviving spouse may collect 100 percent of the damages if there are no children;
- Where there is a surviving spouse and children, the amount is divided according to statute;
- Surviving children split compensation equally when there is no surviving spouse; and,
- Parents may obtain damages, but only if the decedent left no spouse or children.
Types of Damages: The New York wrongful death statute also indicates the damages recoverable in these cases. Aside from amounts for the decedent’s medical costs, funeral and burial expenses, compensation is intended to cover the losses of surviving loved ones – not the deceased victim. Therefore, you may be entitled to damages for lost financial contribution, support, guidance, education, love, and related damages.
Talk to New York Wrongful Death Attorney About the Details
Hopefully, this description helps you sort out the differences between fatal accident cases and other personal injury matters. It should also convince you that it is just as important to retain skilled legal counsel for a wrongful death case as it is if you were the injured victim. For more information on the claims process, compensation for your family, and other details, please contact The Mandel Law Firm. You can call our Manhattan office at (646) 770-3868 or go online to schedule a complimentary case evaluation with a member of our team.