Accidents are an inevitable part of life. While most accidents come and go with little fanfare, some accidents require legal action. In particularly tragic cases, accident victims do not survive. In such cases, it is impossible for the victim to take legal action against the responsible parties. However, that does not mean that no legal action is possible.
If your loved one died in an accident or because of something someone else did, you can pursue a wrongful death action. Wrongful death cases are filed by representatives of the deceased person’s estate and may seek damages for injuries suffered by the deceased before they died. Damages can also include losses to the deceased’s family members.
If you lost a loved one in an accident, or if they died because of someone else’s negligent or intentional behavior, our Yonkers, NY wrongful death attorneys can help you. The losses surrounding the death of a loved one can feel insurmountable, and the person or people responsible should be held accountable. The team at The Martello Law Firm can meet with you in a free legal consultation to discuss your case. Call our offices at (914) 685-6950.
Definition of Wrongful Death in Yonkers, NY
According to E.P.T. Law § 5-4.1, a wrongful death case may arise when a person dies because of another person’s wrongful conduct or neglect. This encompasses negligent behavior, such as in case of an accident, and intentional actions, like violence or criminal behavior. Wrongful death cases are not always immediately apparent. In some cases, a person may be severely injured in an accident, but they do not die of their injuries until sometime later.
The types of claims that can be brought are only those the deceased person could have brought if they had survived. These claims include any medical bills incurred by the deceased before they died, pain and suffering, and any property loss. Damages pertaining to the surviving family’s losses – loss of consortium and financial support, for example – may also be claimed. However, these damages are not paid to family members but rather the deceased’s estate.
There are also strict limitations on who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. You might assume that a surviving family member such as a parent or a spouse could file. However, only representatives of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The representative is usually whoever is named executor of the estate, which may or may not be a family member.
Damages Involved in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Yonkers, NY
The damages in a wrongful death lawsuit can be a bit complicated for the average person to wrap their mind around. You might assume that such a lawsuit is for your benefit and the compensation is for your losses. However, this is not true. A wrongful death lawsuit is meant to benefit the estate of the deceased victim. Any damages that may be claimed are those suffered by the deceased. However, because the deceased person’s estate is being paid, beneficiaries of the estate named in a will, usually family members, eventually receive the payouts.
Funeral and burial expenses are common in wrongful death lawsuits. The costs related to funerals can be very expensive, and you should keep track of the costs of your loved one’s funeral if you plan on pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Before someone passes away, there may be numerous medical and healthcare-related expenses. For example, after a car accident, a person is likely transported to a hospital for treatment. Numerous procedures and treatments could be administered before the person ultimately succumbs to their injuries. Those treatments must be paid for, and our Yonkers, New York wrongful death attorneys can help you get them covered.
With any serious bodily injuries, there is likely to be pain and suffering. Depending on the nature of your loved one’s injuries, they may have suffered greatly before passing away. Their suffering deserves compensation from those responsible. If your loved one’s death was not only painful but a long, drawn-out process, we can argue for their emotional pain and suffering too.
If a deceased individual was the breadwinner for their household or otherwise contributed financially, the loss of their financial support may be claimed as damages. Family members can also claim the loss of consortium with their partner or the loss of parental guidance from a parent.
Filing a Lawsuit for a Wrongful Death in Yonkers, New York
Each state has different rules about who can file and benefit from damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. In the State of New York, the filing responsibility for wrongful death claims lies with the “personal representative” of the decedent’s estate.
Often referred to as an “executor,” the personal representative may be identified in the decedent’s will or, if not, they may be named by a court during the probate process. A family member may also serve as the designated personal representative. If no personal representative has been appointed for the decedent’s estate, our Yonkers wrongful death lawyers can walk you through this process.
Distributing Damages for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Yonkers, New York
Where the money recovered in a New York wrongful death lawsuit goes depends on whether the case ended through settlement or court verdict. If the case reaches a verdict, the court will often directly indicate where the money should be directed. While the court may take the decedent’s will into account while deciding this, they are not obligated to abide by it directly.
When a wrongful death lawsuit is settled in New York, the damages won are distributed directly to the control of the personal representative. The personal representative then effectively holds the damages in trust, to be distributed to the victim’s family members.
If the decedent died with a will, then the damages are added into the decedent’s estate and distributed according to the will’s terms. If the decedent died intestate (without a will), then the damages, like the rest of the estate, will be distributed according to New York State intestacy laws.
If the decedent was a child or had no spouse or children, the parents collect the entire estate. If the decedent was an adult and had a spouse, the entire estate goes to the spouse. If the decedent had children but no spouse, the entire estate goes to the children equally. If the decedent had a spouse and children, the spouse gets half of the estate plus $50,000, with the rest to be distributed equally among the children. If a decedent dies without any surviving parents, children, or spouse, the estate is divided up amongst the decedent’s siblings evenly.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death in Yonkers, New York
You might be wondering how wrongful deaths happen. While every death is tragic, why do some deaths warrant legal action? A wrongful death occurs because of someone else’s negligent or intentional behavior. Car accidents are common reasons for wrongful death lawsuits. However, you could sue for someone’s intentional act, such as criminal violence like homicide.
Any kind of accident might lead to a wrongful death lawsuit if someone’s negligent behavior caused the accident. This includes car accidents but also any other accident. For that matter, most cases that would ordinarily be a personal injury lawsuit may instead be a wrongful death lawsuit if the victim of the incident passed away.
When someone dies as a result of a violent crime, we often view the criminal justice process as our means of obtaining justice. However, you can sue the criminal defendant in civil court for the wrongful death of your loved one. In fact, the law allows extra time to file your case if your defendant is also facing criminal charges. An estate representative has one year from the date any criminal proceedings are completed to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Yonkers, New York
If you hope to recover damages from the party responsible for causing your loved one’s death, you must act within the allotted time provided by New York’s statute of limitations. Generally, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of the victim’s death. This runs contrary to the time limit for personal injury claims, where the clock starts to run on the date that the injury was suffered.
There are a few limited exceptions that could lengthen your chance to act. For instance, wrongful death claims where the cause of death was medical malpractice get an extra six months tacked on to the statute of limitations. For a death caused by a drunk driver or otherwise intoxicated offender, the “Dram Shop Act” gives the decedent’s estate a total of three years to file a lawsuit against whoever provided the alcohol. If the defendant is also facing criminal charges stemming from the same situation that caused the death, the decedent’s estate has a year from whenever the criminal case concludes to file their claim, assuming that the criminal case runs over the normal statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits.
You should also be aware that there are procedural requirements that could shorten your opportunity to act on your recovery in certain situations. If the party you are suing is a government body, you may face notification requirements that are separate from the statute of limitations. You may need to provide notice to the federal, state, or municipal government agency that you plan to name them in your suit. In some situations, the notice window may last as little as 60 days from the date of the decedent’s death. Therefore, it is imperative that you contact a Yonkers wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to help you avoid any procedural pitfalls.
Ways That a Yonkers Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help You
New York does not require an estate’s personal representative to have a lawyer to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are a litany of reasons why having legal representation on your side can benefit you.
You should not be expected to carry the weight of managing the estate, litigating your case, and grieving all at once. Many who try end up giving up on their claim because they cannot handle the stress. You should share that burden with an experienced legal mind who can manage deadlines and paperwork while you take care of your more personal matters.
When you do not have the experience dealing with Yonkers courts in wrongful death issues, you may not be able to identify all of the harms for which you could pursue compensation. Making that connection is one of the most important services that an attorney can provide.
In some wrongful death cases, identifying the cause of the fatal accident (and who was responsible for causing it) may be difficult. This is particularly true in cases involving medical malpractice, multi-car accidents, and defective product liability. Our Yonkers wrongful death lawyers can find experts that can attest to the defendant’s role in causing the death, so that the jury gets the facts about what transpired.
Cost of Getting a Yonkers Wrongful Death Lawyer
Many potential claimants avoid reaching out to a lawyer because they do not want to incur legal fees for a case that they are unsure if they will win. Fortunately, many wrongful death lawyers will work on a contingency fee structure. If your lawyer works on contingency, you will not have to pay for your representation until your case is resolved, and the amount it costs will depend on how much you win. If you discover that you do not have a case or do not ultimately succeed, you will not owe your lawyers anything.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death in Yonkers, NY
Our Yonkers wrongful death lawyers handle many different types of injury cases. Unfortunately, nearly any type of injury case we handle has the potential to become deadly. Although some of these types of wrongful death cases are far rarer than others, the following are all causes of wrongful death that our attorneys can help you and your family seek compensation for:
One of the most common types of accidents that people are involved in across the country is car accidents. Car accidents often turn deadly, especially when one of the drivers is intoxicated or when high speed is involved. Our lawyers work to help families seek compensation from insurance companies and at-fault drivers after the death of a loved one in a car accident.
In any car accident case, New York’s no-fault insurance laws require that there is some sort of coverage for injuries. These policies also have coverage for damages related to a driver or passenger’s death. Further, your Yonkers, NY car accident lawyer can also file a lawsuit and third-party claims against the at-fault driver for your loved one’s death. While lawsuits are typically limited by no-fault insurance rules, death is always an exception that allows a lawsuit.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents
Crashes involving bike riders and pedestrians are often far more deadly than vehicle accidents. Without a car around you to protect you, you face a much higher risk of serious injury and death in a crash.
Especially when the driver who caused the crash was drunk, these accidents can result in traumatic injuries and immediate death. These accidents are always avoidable since drunk driving is illegal, helping you prove liability.
The driver can often be held liable for the crash, and many drivers react by fleeing the scene. Especially if your loved one was killed in a hit-and-run crash, you should work with our Yonkers wrongful death lawyers for help pursuing compensation for your family.
Death and serious injury can occur when medical treatment goes wrong. While some negligent care is unlikely to result in a patient’s death, many patients are killed by the following types of medical mistakes:
- Surgical errors
- Gross negligence
- Misdiagnosis of cancer
- Failure to diagnose cancer
- Misdiagnosis of other serious illnesses
- Failure to diagnose other serious illnesses
- Anesthesia errors
When doctors commit mistakes and errors that put a patient’s health and safety at risk, they can be held liable for the resulting death. In many cases, hospitals might also share responsibility for the death.
Accidents on Someone Else’s Property
Although “slip and fall” accidents are often considered “minor” accidents, severe or even life-threatening injuries can result from these accidents. Many people injured in slip and fall accidents from icy pathways or even spills in stores could face severe brain injuries and potentially pass away from those injuries.
Other injuries on someone else’s property could be more obviously severe. Injuries from fires, electrocution, drowning, and building collapses can all result in severe, life-threatening injuries. If your loved one was killed in an accident like this, the property owner could be liable for their death.
Although these fall under the category of injuries on someone else’s property, discussed above, it is worth discussing drowning deaths separately. In many cases of drowning deaths, the victim is a young child killed because of negligent supervision. At public pools, lifeguards are typically responsible for watching children. At home pools, the property owner could be liable for failing to watch a child. When a babysitter or nanny gives a child a bath, even they could be held liable for failing to keep your child safe.
Especially when it comes to pools on someone else’s property, there may be additional requirements and safeguards the property owner is expected to have in place to prevent drownings. For example, fences and gates might be necessary to keep neighbors from trespassing and drowning under a legal doctrine known as the “attractive nuisance” doctrine.
Defective Products, Auto Parts, and Medication
When you purchase something that does not work as intended, it can often be an inconvenience, but it can sometimes be a severe danger. Many products have been responsible for things like fires or electrocution that have endangered their users’ lives. Similarly, the news occasionally has stories about auto defects and pharmaceutical defects that cause injury or death to users.
Our Yonkers wrongful death lawyers will fight against any company or manufacturer we need to to help you get the compensation you deserve after a loved one’s death. These cases can often involve extensive research and may need experts to testify as to what the product’s defects were and how the manufacturer should have prevented this defect from injuring your family member.
Poisoning and Overdose Deaths
Similar to how manufacturers can be held responsible for product defects, they can often be held liable for insufficient warnings on their products as well. Especially when it comes to children, overdosing and suffering poisoning injuries from medication and other household items is quite common. Manufacturers can often be held liable for poisoning and overdose deaths that stem from a product that does not have sufficient “childproof” features or warnings that can let parents know the substances are dangerous for children.
Adults, especially seniors, can also succumb to poisoning and overdose deaths. Overdosing deaths can also involve illicit drugs or illegally obtained prescription drugs. In some situations, the person who provided the drugs might be held liable for your loved one’s wrongful death by overdose. This could potentially involve lawsuits against doctors, pharmacies, or pharmaceutical manufacturers for medication errors, as well.
The families of those killed at work could be entitled to sue their loved one’s employer for those accidents. There are many laws in place to help protect workers, especially in the construction industry where laws like New York’s Scaffold Law place liability on employers for injuries and death related to falls. In some circumstances, Workers’ Compensation rules might block your family from being able to sue your loved one’s employer, but our attorneys can help you investigate the case and determine whether a lawsuit is an option.
If a wrongful death lawsuit is permitted in your case, we can fight your loved one’s employer and seek to get the damages your family deserves for the loss of your loved one. These damages can be essential if the family member who passed away was the primary breadwinner and your family needs replacement wages to continue on after their death.
Contact Our Yonkers, New York Wrongful Death Attorneys
You can seek justice through a wrongful death lawsuit if you lost a loved one in an accident or to criminal violence. Our Yonkers, New York wrongful death attorneys will help you get compensation for the loss of a loved one. Call The Martello Law Firm at (914) 685-6950 for a free legal consultation.