Can I Sue on Behalf of a Deceased Family Member in a Wrongful Death Case?

Losing a family member is a great tragedy. Oftentimes, grieving families are also faced with financial challenges, including having to pay steep medical bills and losing the home’s main breadwinner. In many cases, you can sue for wrongful death to obtain compensation to help relieve these financial burdens. When someone else is at fault, a wrongful death lawsuit can also be a way to hold them accountable and get the justice your family deserves.

Individuals, governments, and private companies can be liable for wrongful death. Negligent medical care, defective products that create hazards, reckless action, and poorly maintained infrastructure can all be grounds for this type of lawsuit.

Types of Wrongful Death Compensation

Surviving family members can greatly suffer, and their lives may change dramatically as a result of their loved one’s absence.

If you have lost a family member due to negligence, you may sue liable parties to recover different types of financial compensation, including:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Wage-earning capacity
  • Medical expenses
  • Inheritance, including the savings the deceased would likely have amassed over their lifetime
  • Care, support, and guidance
  • Love and companionship
  • Pain, emotional anguish, and suffering
  • Mental health care and therapy for surviving family members

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

If you are related to the deceased, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. State laws determine the specifics of who can sue and when. In some states, relatives can file this type of lawsuit in their name; in other jurisdictions, an executor must be designated to file suit on behalf of the victim’s estate.

Spouses, parents of deceased minors, and minor children of deceased parents can generally file wrongful death lawsuits. In some states, the parents of single, childless adult children may also sue. Certain states allow other individuals to sue, including unmarried partners, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and any other person who was financially dependent on the deceased.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in New York

If some person(s) or company engaged in negligent actions that resulted in your loved one’s death, you may sue to recover a variety of damages.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in NY State

In New York, a representative of the estate, the deceased’s children, parents, or spouse can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Under New York State law, siblings and other relatives can only sue if they have been named as the victim’s legal representative or guardian. However, if there is a surviving spouse, parent, or child, they have priority, and their rights trump those of other relatives.

Wrongful Death Compensation in New York

If the deceased experienced pain and suffering through the events that led to their death, surviving family members may recover compensation for pain and suffering on their behalf.

Financially dependent survivors may seek damages relating to lost wages and loss of companionship. In this case, the recovery is based on damages to the surviving family members, not the decedent.

Damages connected with pain and suffering may be collected by one party, while another party collects damages connected with financial losses. In general, different types of damages can go to different parties. For example, if the deceased left their estate to a nonprofit organization, that organization may recover for the deceased’s pain and suffering, while a spouse recovers damages connected to the loss of companionship and lost wages.

Proving Wrongful Death in New York

When you file a wrongful death lawsuit in the State of New York, you must prove that:

  • The defendant’s actions/negligence would have entitled the victim to file suit and recover damages;
  • The victim is survived by children, parents, a spouse, or representatives who can legally sue for wrongful death;
  • The victim’s death resulted in monetary damages.

What Happens When Two or More Relatives File Separate Lawsuits?

Courts generally allow only one wrongful death lawsuit per decedent. If different family members sue simultaneously, courts may decide to consolidate their claims into a single lawsuit.

Examples of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Common wrongful death lawsuits may involve:

  • Car accidents
  • Pedestrians and cyclists hit by cars
  • Workplace accidents (exposure to toxic substances, falls, accidents caused by unsafe environment or defective machinery, etc.)
  • Bus, plane, and train crashes
  • Boating accidents
  • Defective consumer products
  • Hazardous products with inadequate warnings
  • Medical malpractice
  • Unsanitary hospital conditions
  • Other types of professional malpractice
  • Construction defects leading to a deadly accident
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals, such as mercury, asbestos, and lead

NY State’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits

In New York, the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits currently establishes a basic two-year deadline from the date of the victim’s death.

In the case of medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations is two and a half years from the date of the victim’s death.

If the defendant is also facing criminal charges over the victim’s death, the statute of limitations is one year after the end of the criminal case.

A new bill that was recently passed in the Senate and the Assembly extends the two-year deadline to three years and six months. Though it has not been implemented yet, it will likely happen over the next year. Consult with your attorney to be sure about the deadline that applies in your particular case.

Working with a New York Wrongful Death Attorney

If you recently lost a loved one, probably the last thing you want is to get entangled in a complicated legal process you cannot understand. An experienced New York wrongful death attorney can explain how the specifics of the law apply to your personal situation.

Our firm has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of people who have lost their loved ones to wrongful death. Our experienced and compassionate litigators, investigators, and expert witnesses can thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the victim’s death and maximize compensation for surviving family members.

Call us today for a free consultation. If we decide to take your case, you don’t have to pay any legal fees unless our team succeeds in recovering compensation.

Contact us to get the support and counsel you need in this difficult time. We can help.