New York City Wrongful Death Attorney
Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult times of your life. When a family member’s death was preventable and caused by the carelessness of another person, it can be even more overwhelming. While the last thing on your mind may be to call a lawyer, it is important to understand your rights and get the information and advice you need as early possible. At The O’Connor Law Firm, your New York City wrongful death lawyer will provide answers to your questions and guide you through the legal process.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death is a death that is caused by someone’s negligence or willful conduct. The specific negligence or carelessness which caused the wrongful death can arise out of any type of accident, including vehicle accidents, dangerous conditions on property, work related accidents and more. In a wrongful death claim, the victim’s family can seek to recover for economic damages such as medical bills, funeral costs and loss of inheritance.
What is a Survivorship Cause of Action?
A survivorship claim in New York is a cause of action that belongs to the estate of the deceased person and not the beneficiaries. It is a claim for conscious pain and suffering which the deceased person experienced from the time of the injury until death. Conscious pain and suffering claims are recoverable even if the victim was only conscious for seconds after an accident. Sometimes, experts are necessary to establish a timeline with regards to proving pain and suffering of an accident victim.
Any award for conscious pain and suffering is distributed as part of the estate’s assets pursuant to the deceased person’s will, or, if there is no will, then pursuant to New York intestacy law.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim in New York?
A wrongful death claim is filed pursuant to the New York EPTL (Estates Powers and Trusts Law) and is brought by a personal representative of the estate. Generally, it is a surviving spouse, children or parent of the deceased person. A wrongful death claim is brought on behalf of all the deceased person’s statutory beneficiaries, called distributes. A survivorship claim is typically brought in the same action on behalf of the estate of the deceased person.
Damages Your New York City Wrongful Death Attorney Will Pursue
Damages are intended to make a victim “whole” again. Unfortunately, in a wrongful death case, no amount of money can erase the tragic loss of a loved one. It is the hope that a recovery can assist a victim’s family by alleviating the financial burden in a way the victim would have provided. The economic damages that are recoverable in a wrongful death case include:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral costs and burial expenses
- Loss of financial support (based upon loss of expected wages)
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of parental guidance
- Loss of companionship
The Court will typically determine how an award for wrongful death is distributed among the beneficiaries as the distributions are not always the same depending on the individual relationship between the deceased person and each surviving family member.
Are Pain and Suffering and Emotional Distress Recoverable in Wrongful Death?
New York is one of only eight states that does not allow surviving family members to recover for their own pain and suffering and emotional anguish for the loss of a loved one. The law only provides for economic damages except in a very rare circumstance in which a surviving immediate family member was in the “zone of danger” at the time of the accident that caused the wrongful death. A zone of danger claim arising when a surviving family member is personally threatened with bodily harm and witnessed the injury or death of the victim. This can be confusing and difficult to fight, but your New York City wrongful death lawyer will collect all the evidence you need to pursue these damages.
What are The Time Limits To Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?
Due to the complex nature of wrongful death law, it is important that family members contact an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Many attorneys will simply tell you the statute of limitations in New York to bring a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of death. However, there is a different time limit for a survivorship claim for conscious pain and suffering which is sometimes overlooked by inexperienced lawyers. A survivorship claim must be filed within three years from the date of the injury which caused the death or one year after the death, whichever is later.
Shorter Time Limit for Municipal Defendants
To complicate things further, the time limits for these two related causes of action also differ when the wrongful death is caused by a municipal or public entity such as The City of New York, The New York City Transit Authority or other public entities.
The survivorship claim for pre-death conscious pain and suffering must be filed within one year and 90 days from the date of the accident which caused the death while the wrongful death claim must be filed within two years from the date of death.
The Notice of Claim Requirements Are Also Different
Government entities have special requirements called “conditions precedent” that must be met in order to file a personal injury lawsuit in New York. A “notice of claim” is a document that must be served on the particular public entity as early as 90 days from the date the claim arose.
A wrongful death notice of claim must be filed within 90 days of the appointment of a personal representative of the estate. For a survivorship action, a notice of claim must be filed within 90 days of the accident which caused the deathof the deceased person.
Sometimes a personal representative of the estate may not be appointed for over a year. I have read about attorneys who mistakenly think they need to wait for the appointment of a personal representative to file both claims. This is not true. A notice of claim must be served as early as the first 90 days for a conscious pain and suffering claim. A separate or supplemental notice of claim can be served once a personal representative has been appointed for the wrongful death claim. It is best to hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible as these deadlines can be complicated.
Contact an Experienced Staten Island or New York City Wrongful Death Attorney from the O’Connor Law Firm
At The O’Connor Law Firm, we understand that coping with the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming. Our wrongful death attorneys will take on the burden of the legal process so that you can focus on healing. Please contact us online or call us at 212-566-4868 or 718-948-3500 and learn more about how we can help you.