What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in New York?

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The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in New York is two years from the date of death—in most cases. Some important exceptions can shorten or extend this timeline.

If you want to hold the party accountable for the loss of your loved one through a wrongful death claim, it’s important to consult a wrongful death lawyer to ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines.

Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing is heart-wrenching. And while no amount of money can erase your pain, you and your family may find comfort in seeking justice on their behalf.

What Is a Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs when a person is killed due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional act of another party.

Some common examples of incidents that may give rise to a wrongful death claim include:

  • Fatal car accidents caused by drunk, distracted, or reckless drivers
  • Medical malpractice resulting in a patient’s death
  • Unsafe conditions on someone’s property leading to a fatal accident
  • Defective or dangerous products causing a deadly incident
  • Criminal acts like assault or murder

Under New York law, when a wrongful death occurs, the decedent’s children, parents, spouse, or a representative of the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. The purpose is to recover damages for losses suffered by the deceased person’s surviving family members and estate.

A wrongful death claim allows eligible surviving family members and the estate to seek compensation for both economic and non-economic losses related to their loved one’s death.

Damages that may be available in a New York wrongful death case include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical bills related to the deceased person’s final injury or illness
  • Lost wages and benefits the deceased would have earned if they had lived
  • The value of support and services the deceased provided to family members
  • Conscious pain and suffering endured by the deceased due to the final injury/illness

Exceptions to New York’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

As mentioned above, there are rare exceptions that can shorten or lengthen New York’s two-year statute of limitations.

Some include:

  • Medical malpractice: If the wrongful death is related to medical malpractice, you may have additional time to file. The deadline for filing a medical malpractice claim is two years and six months from the date the malpractice occurred or from the end of continuous treatment from the provider accused of medical malpractice.
  • Intentional acts: If your loved one was intentionally killed through criminal acts like assault or homicide, you have one year from the end of the criminal case against the perpetrator to file the wrongful death claim.
  • Government defendants: If the at-fault party is a government entity, you must file a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the appointment of the administrator of the estate. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed 30 days after the filing of the Notice of Claim but no later than two years after the decedent’s death.

Because the statute of limitations can vary based on the circumstances, it’s best to consult a knowledgeable New York wrongful death lawyer who can determine the filing deadline in your particular case.

What Happens if I Miss New York’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

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If you file a wrongful death lawsuit after the statute of limitations has passed, the defendant (the party you’re trying to hold liable) will almost certainly ask the court to dismiss the case. Unless a rare exception applies, the court will grant this request. This means you cannot seek damages for your loved one’s wrongful death.

Losing the right to file a wrongful death claim can have devastating consequences for grieving families. While no amount of money can undo the pain of losing a family member, a wrongful death claim can provide much-needed financial relief and a sense of justice.

Without this resource, you may struggle to pay bills while coping with the knowledge that you could not hold the at-fault party accountable.

That’s why you must talk to an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as you can after the death. Your lawyer can identify the appropriate statute of limitations, take quick action to prepare your case and get the claim filed on time to protect your rights.

Why Is There a Statute of Limitations for Filing Personal Injury Claims?

New York imposes a statute of limitations on personal injury claims, including wrongful death lawsuits, because it:

  • Encourages prompt action: Statutes of limitations motivate plaintiffs to diligently investigate and pursue their claims while evidence remains fresh and witnesses can be located. Without deadlines, a plaintiff might wait many years to file suit, placing defendants at a disadvantage.
  • Ensures evidence is available: Over time, crucial evidence can be lost or destroyed, and witnesses’ memories can fade. By requiring claims to be brought within a specific timeframe, statutes of limitations increase the likelihood that relevant evidence will be available for the case.
  • Provides certainty and closure: Statutes of limitations give defendants peace of mind that they won’t face a lawsuit indefinitely. Without a time limit, potential defendants would have no way of knowing when they were safe from litigation, which could impact their personal and business decisions.
  • Promotes judicial efficiency: Setting a deadline for filing lawsuits helps the courts manage their caseloads and prevents a backlog of old cases. This allows the courts to resolve disputes more efficiently and focus resources on timely-filed claims.
  • Balances interests of plaintiffs and defendants: Statutes of limitations strike a balance between giving plaintiffs enough time to discover their injuries and file a claim while also protecting defendants from having to defend against stale claims where evidence may no longer exist.
  • Reflects policy decisions: Each state legislature sets statutes of limitations based on policy considerations specific to that state. These decisions often involve weighing the interests of potential plaintiffs, defendants, and the legal system as a whole.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Wrongful Death Case?

It is highly recommended that you hire a lawyer when pursuing a wrongful death claim in New York for several reasons. Wrongful death cases are complex, emotionally charged, and involve significant legal and procedural challenges.

An experienced wrongful death attorney can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case.

Reasons to Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer:

Some reasons to hire a wrongful death lawyer include:

  • Knowledge of the law: Wrongful death claims are governed by intricate state laws that dictate who can file a claim, what types of damages are available, and how long you have to take legal action. A skilled wrongful death attorney will have a deep understanding of these laws and how they apply to your specific case. They can help you navigate the legal system, meet important deadlines, and avoid costly mistakes that could jeopardize your claim.
  • Experience with similar cases: An attorney who has handled wrongful death cases like yours will know what evidence to gather, which experts to consult, and how to build a strong case on your behalf. They can anticipate challenges and develop effective strategies to overcome them. This experience can help when dealing with complex factual scenarios, multiple defendants, or complicated medical issues.
  • Objective advice and advocacy: Losing a loved one is an emotionally devastating experience. It can be challenging to make clear-headed decisions while grieving and trying to adjust to life without your family members. A wrongful death lawyer can provide objective advice based on your best interests. They can handle communications with insurance companies, help you evaluate settlement offers, and advocate fiercely on your behalf during negotiations or in court.
  • Access to resources: Thoroughly investigating a wrongful death case often requires significant resources. An established law firm will have the means to gather evidence, interview witnesses, consult with experts, and prepare compelling demonstrative exhibits. They may also have relationships with medical professionals, accident reconstruction specialists, and other experts who can provide critical testimony to support your claim.
  • Maximizing compensation: Wrongful death cases often involve substantial damages, including lost income, medical bills, funeral expenses, and the intangible losses of care, guidance, and companionship. An experienced attorney can help you identify all available sources of compensation and calculate the full value of your damages. They can also negotiate with insurance companies to fight for the highest possible settlement or present a persuasive case to a jury if a trial is necessary.
  • Allowing you to focus on family: Dealing with a wrongful death claim can be time-consuming and stressful, especially while coping with grief. Hiring a lawyer will enable you to focus on caring for yourself and your family while your attorney handles the legal heavy lifting. They can deal with paperwork, deadlines, and negotiations so you can concentrate on honoring your loved one’s memory and finding a path forward.
  • Contingency fee arrangements: Most wrongful death attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means you don’t pay any upfront costs or attorney fees. Instead, the lawyer receives a percentage of the settlement or verdict they recover on your behalf. If they don’t win your case, you don’t owe them any fees. This arrangement allows families to pursue justice without added financial strain.
  • Free initial consultation: Many wrongful death lawyers offer free initial consultations. This gives you an opportunity to discuss your case, ask questions, and get a sense of the attorney’s experience and approach. Talking to a knowledgeable lawyer can help you understand your rights and options so you can make informed decisions about your case.

Hiring an experienced attorney can significantly improve your chances of success and help ensure your family receives the full compensation you deserve. If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, it’s worth reaching out to a reputable wrongful death lawyer to discuss your situation.

Get Help from a Compassionate New York Wrongful Death Lawyer

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At Rothenberg Law Firm LLP, we understand the immense grief families endure when a loved one is taken too soon due to someone else’s misconduct. We have decades of experience helping surviving family members pursue the justice and compensation they deserve through wrongful death claims. While we know legal action can’t erase your loss, we’ve seen how maximizing your financial recovery can provide stability and peace of mind in a difficult time.

When you hire our firm, our personal injury lawyers will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s passing, identify all potential sources of compensation, and tenaciously pursue the best possible outcome for your family. We’re here to handle all the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on honoring your loved one’s memory.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to hold the at-fault party accountable. Contact us today at (800) 624-8888 or through our online form for a free consultation to discuss your options.

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