A death in the family will leave survivors bereft, particularly when it is unexpected and due to the negligence of someone else. Many will be in mourning and still considering future family plans when difficult legal questions regarding the decedent’s affairs must be addressed. This often involves considering whether to pursue legal claims, such as a wrongful death or a survivor action claim.
If you have lost a loved one in New York City, the Brooklyn personal injury lawyers at The Rothenberg Law Firm offer compassionate and effective representation. Our lawyers are experienced in answering questions for grieving families and guiding them to receive the just compensation they deserve to help them get their life plans back on track.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
Under New York law, a “wrongful death” is a death resulting from a wrongful act, negligence, or default of duty.
For example, many deaths in NYC occur due to accidents in traffic and in and around a construction site, i.e., a car crash or construction equipment falling on someone.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Every case is unique, but many have common elements. For example, New York is almost like one large construction zone, with an increased chance of heavy construction materials or equipment falling on passers-by.
Some of the most common causes of wrongful death in our city include:
- Motor vehicle accidents – NYC is well-known for being a traffic nightmare, and the predominance of large trucks and motorcycles increases the chances that a death will result from an accident.
- Construction accidents – as mentioned above, construction zones, of which NYC has many at all times, cause many injuries and deaths each year.
- Workplace accidents
- Premises liability, such as slip and fall accidents
- Mesothelioma from asbestos
- Defective products, such as toxic food or drug products
- Medical Malpractice, particularly during surgeries or hospitalizations
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for wrongful death in the state of New York is two years from the date of the death of the decedent. This means that a wrongful death case must be filed within 2 years.
In the event that 2 years have passed since the death of your loved one, your case will need to qualify for an exception.
Although no court can restore what has been lost, a wrongful death case is an attempt by the court to compensate families financially for the loss of their loved one.
These damages are based upon the relationship to the decedent. For example, what sort of benefit did you receive from your loved one? What is the “market value” of that benefit and for what length of time would the decedent have offered this benefit? Damages are often relatively high in wrongful death cases, particularly if the defendant acted wrongfully enough to qualify for punitive damages.
The damages available for wrongful death fall under three categories: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages are those that have a readily-available price tag and can include:
- Hospital bills paid for by the estate
- Funeral expenses paid for by the estate
- Lost wages, insurance benefits, and other compensation (i.e., bonuses, company car, etc.) from the time of the accident or incident until projected retirement
Non-economic damages are a bit more nuanced, stemming from intangible losses suffered by the family. These are losses that have no clear market value.
Non-economic damages can include:
- Loss of parental guidance, advice and support
- Loss of companionship and consortium of a spouse
- Loss of services, i.e., services that the decedent would have provided to family members had they lived.
Punitive damages, although rare, by their nature are typically for substantial amounts to shock bad actors into compliance with society’s expectations. Also known as exemplary damages, punitive damages are not to reward a plaintiff, but rather to punish a defendant and to send a message to potential future defendants to discourage similar behavior.
To be awarded punitive damages in New York, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a defendant’s conduct was willful, malicious, or reckless, or that their conduct shows a high degree of moral culpability.
Calculating damages is not particularly intuitive and can require sophisticated proof such as expert witness statements and testimony. Speaking with a Brooklyn personal injury attorney can help you get a better understanding of potential settlement or judgment amounts.
How The Rothenberg Law Firm Can Help
At The Rothenberg Law Firm, our knowledgeable Brooklyn wrongful death attorneys are experienced in handling sensitive matters for families who suffered the loss of a loved one. Call today to set up a free consultation.