The most devastating outcome of any accident is the death of a loved one or family member. The National Center for Health Statistics calculated that 121,000 deaths are the result of unintentional or accidental injuries every year. Whether it was a car accident, motorcycle accident or an act of medical malpractice, each one of those accidents resulted in the end of one person's life and the beginning of a grief-filled life for their family members.
Attempting to speak about money or finances concerning such a devastating subject can seem cold and unfeeling. However, it is no secret that the death of a loved one is followed by massive expenses concerning medical treatment and funeral costs. A family who is dealing with grieving the loss of a loved one to a tragic accident should not be expected to deal with the financial burden of that loss as well. Even if the death was not caused by a criminal act, negligence on the part of another person qualifies them as responsible for the wrongful death and therefore for providing the family with compensation to deal with their loss.
New York City Wrongful Death Claim
To attempt to put a price tag on a person's life is impossible because human life is far too valuable to be calculated in financial terms. For that reason, New York does not have a limit on the amount of damages payable in the event of a wrongful death. Damages concerning the costs of any medical treatment given to the person for the injury prior to his or her death, funeral expenses and future losses concerning the deceased's income can all be claimed and compensated for under a wrongful death claim. If the act of negligence that lead to the death was particularly reckless or depraved, punitive damages can also be claimed in order to sanction the culprit. Punitive damages are intended to act as punishment for the wrong done, but any compensation granted for those damages will be paid to the family of the deceased as well.
Generally speaking, if the accident under question would have qualified for a personal injury claim had the victim not been killed, the circumstances qualify it for a wrongful death claim. This means if the incident under question simply resulted in injury, and not the death, of the person and that person had grounds to pursue a personal injury claim, that means there are grounds for a wrongful death claim. While the damages in a wrongful death claim are much more severe, negligence is ultimately what caused the accident and why civil action is warranted. However, in contrast to the three-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, wrongful death claims must be made within two years of the date of death.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim In New York?
New York is quite unique regarding the qualifications for bringing a wrongful death claim. While any damages recovered by the suit will be distributed to the family members of the deceased, a wrongful death claim must be filed, under the state's Estate Powers and Trusts Law, by the personal representative of the estate. A personal representative is a person who the deceased trusted to manage his or her property and money before his or her death. When someone dies, the personal representative is responsible for settling the financial affairs and distributing the estate among those chosen in a will or trust.
This is in stark contrast to the civil code of other states where a family member can personally file a claim for the wrongful death of their loved one. However, this allows the compensation received from the claim to be added to the estate and distributed as such according to the wishes of the deceased. If the victim of the accident were alive and pursued compensation through a personal injury claim, any money recovered would be added to his or her estate. Using the same line of reasoning, the personal representative is acting on behalf of the deceased in filing the claim so the compensation goes to the estate of the original owner and is distributed appropriately among the beneficiaries. In the event no will or trust had been established prior to the death of the victim and there is no personal representative to act on his or her behalf, a family member or someone with an interest in the estate may file an application with the Surrogate's Court to be named administrator of the estate.
New York City Personal Injury Attorney
If you and your family have lost a loved one to a tragic accident, you should contact a personal injury attorney in New York City to discuss whether a wrongful death claim is the right option for your situation. At The Law Office of Richard M. Kenny, we can work with your loved one's estate manager to file a claim and recover compensation on your behalf or, if there is no personal representative, we can advise you on how to become qualified to file the claim yourself. Wrongful death claims in New York are known to be complicated, long and emotionally draining. In many cases, one wonders whether the process is worth it since nothing will bring their loved one back to life. While money cannot replace the presence of this person in your life, it can alleviate the financial burdens brought on by the tragedy so you can focus on grieving and healing. To learn more about wrongful death claims and lawsuits, call our office today to speak with a member of our legal team.