When a family member dies in an accident, it can feel like the end of the world. However, the rest of your family may still need financial support, and you can fight to get that through a wrongful death lawsuit.
If your spouse or parent passed away and you need help recovering compensation for their lost wages, funeral expenses, and other damages, our lawyers may be able to help you. We can fight to file a case for their death and potentially recover compensation for other expenses, such as their end-of-life care, on top of the expenses that you now face.
Call The Martello Law Firm’s wrongful death attorneys at (914) 685-6950 for a free case review right away.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Cortlandt, NY?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of someone who was killed in an accident. Understanding the scope and purpose of this kind of lawsuit means looking at who files it, what they recover, and what constitutes a “wrongful death.”
Who Files a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
You would think that the family of the deceased is who would file this kind of lawsuit, but it is actually filed in court by the deceased’s personal representative. That means that the name that appears on the case caption might not be the spouse’s or the child’s name but rather whoever the victim’s will designates as the executor of the estate (a.k.a., their personal representative). In some cases, that might be you if your loved one named you their personal representative, but even if it is a lawyer or someone else, you can still participate in the case.
Spouses, parents, and children of the victim will be the ones who ultimately receive the benefits of the lawsuit. That means that regardless of who files it, you will be the one to receive the money from the lawsuit. As such, you should still work with a lawyer to represent your interests and fight to make sure that money comes to you at its full value, not in some reduced amount from a low-dollar settlement.
What Damages Are Recovered?
A wrongful death claim is meant to recover “pecuniary damages” in New York. This means all economic and financial harms related to your loved one’s death. That could be wages that your family no longer receives because of their passing or money you had to lay out because of the injury and death, such as medical bills and funerary costs.
There are some limited exceptions for “pain and suffering” damages, but they are not usually accessible in a wrongful death lawsuit. One exception is for minor children, who can claim some degree of damages for the lost companionship of a parent killed in an accident.
There are also other damages you can claim in a separate but related lawsuit called a “survival action.” This recovers compensation for the damages the victim suffered before dying. This could alternatively cover their medical care at the end, but it can also cover lost wages before death and the victim’s pain and suffering. Note that this is pain and suffering from before death, such as the pain of the accident and the suffering of knowing their life is ending. Neither lawsuit pays general pain and suffering damages to the family for their grief and loss.
What Counts as a “Wrongful Death”?
One might consider any early death wrongful, but to meet the definition of wrongful death for a lawsuit in New York, you have to be able to show particular elements. Namely, for a death to qualify for a lawsuit, it must have been caused by some breach of duty on the part of the defendant.
In cases of medical malpractice, this often means that the defendant doctor’s medical care violated the “standard of care” and fell below said standards rather than being just random complications. In car accident cases, there is rarely a true “accident,” and victims’ families can sue if the defendant caused the crash by violating a traffic law or otherwise driving unsafely.
Victims’ families can also sue for accidents involving defective products, dangerous property, toxic exposure, and other wrongful acts. Additionally, you can sue for an assault that ends up being deadly or intentional murder, manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, or negligent killings.
Criminal Vs. Civil Cases for Wrongful Death in Cortlandt, NY
A wrongful death lawsuit is separate from any criminal charges. That means the defendant might still be charged with murder, manslaughter, DUI, reckless driving, or some other crime for the death they caused, but your wrongful death lawsuit can be filed separately.
In criminal cases, the police and prosecutors seek to punish and potentially jail the defendant for what they did. In a civil case like yours, you seek damages and compensation for what happened. These court cases serve different purposes and so are filed separately by different parties – criminal cases by the government and your civil wrongful death case by the personal representative.
They also use different standards for proof. Criminal charges have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but civil cases use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This is a lower standard that equates to a win by approximately 51%. As such, even if a criminal case gets dismissed or the defendant is found not guilty by a jury in that case, your civil case could still succeed.
If a criminal case is filed against the defendant and they are found guilty of the crime that caused your loved one’s death, that can make filing a civil claim much easier. Because criminal cases are harder to prove, that judgment can be used against them in civil court to help you win your civil case for damages.
Call Our Wrongful Death Attorneys Today for Help with Your Case
If your loved one was killed in an accident, call The Martello Law Firm at (914) 685-6950 for a free case review with our wrongful death attorneys.