Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death Attorneys-At-Law in White Plains, New York

If you are injured in an accident caused by another person’s negligent or reckless conduct, you probably know that you can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover your damages. But what happens when someone is killed due to negligent conduct? In that scenario, the estate or immediate heirs of the deceased may file a special type of personal injury claim known as a wrongful death lawsuit.

Unlike other forms of personal injury lawsuits, which are governed by principles of common law, wrongful death is purely a creation of statute. Specifically, wrongful death laws exist that detail who can file a claim and what damages are available. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can provide you with more information but here are some basic things to understand about the law.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A person must have legal “standing” before they can bring a lawsuit. Generally under wrongful death law, only the following relatives of the deceased individual can maintain standing:

  • The surviving spouse or domestic partner;
  • Children, or grandchildren if the children are deceased;
  • Any minor, such as a stepchild, who was dependent on the deceased for at least 50 percent of their financial support; and
  • Anyone who would be entitled to inherit the deceased person’s property under intestate succession law.

The estate of the deceased person–i.e., their executor or personal representative–may also bring what is known as a “survival action” against the negligent parties. A survival action is often combined with a wrongful death lawsuit although it serves a different purpose. Wrongful death is about compensating the family, while a survival action is effectively the personal injury claim the victim would have brought against the defendant if they had not died.

What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?

As with any personal injury claim, the remedy for a successful wrongful death lawsuit can be divided into two broad categories: economic and non-economic damages. In this context, economic damages primarily includes the financial support that the victim would have provided their family had they lived out a normal lifespan. It can also cover out-of-pocket expenses related to the victim’s death, such as funeral and burial costs.

Non-economic damages are, by their very nature, difficult to quantify. But broadly speaking, they reflect the family’s loss of the victim’s companionship, protection, affection, moral support, and even marital relations. Again, there is no fixed rule for determining these types of damages. A jury is simply charged with deciding a “reasonable” amount based on the facts of a given case.

Punitive damages may be available in some cases, although not always, depending on the law. Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer for their acts as opposed to compensating the victims. It is important to work with an attorney to understand when these damages may be available to you.

Speak with a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

Wrongful death cases are often complex and emotional affairs. Family members are already struggling with their grief. A lawsuit is often seen as a necessary but unwelcome distraction. This is why it is crucial to work with a skilled wrongful death attorney who can take that burden off of your family’s shoulders.