Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death occurs when a death is caused by the wrongful actions of another person, such as a car accident caused by a reckless driver or death caused by medical malpractice. Surviving heirs and family members that wish to make a legal claim against a liable party may have the option to file a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful death statutes were created to protect surviving family members since the deceased cannot sue for damages from guilty parties. Every state has different wrongful death laws, but damages may include funeral expenses, the deceased person’s pain and suffering, and lost financial support. These lawsuits are often filed by representatives of the decedent’s estates on the behalf of surviving family members.
Building a Case
Wrongful death claims can be complicated, and preparation begins by proving that the death was caused by the defendant’s wrongful conduct. It should also be shown that the deceased had a cause of action against the defendant when the death occurred, and that the decedent had surviving dependents who experienced financial loss as a result. There also needs to be an appointed executor to manage the estate.
During the discovery phase, a wrongful death lawyer will work to determine what financial losses incurred and who caused the decedent’s death. Factors for consideration include the decedent’s past and future earnings. This is where an expert witness can be called in to provide testimony on the subject.
Breach of Duty
To show that a defendant was negligent, it must be established that the defendant owed the deceased person a duty of care. This means that the defendant had a duty to keep the other person safe. A judge will determine if the wrongful death was avoidable and if the defendant’s acts were connected to the death.
Once it is determined that the duty existed, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached it. This will require evidence, like the results of a blood-alcohol test or photos of tire tracks from a car accident. In short, a plaintiff must convince a jury that the facts of the case are 50 percent or more likely to be accurate.
Causation and Damages
Plaintiffs also need to prove that the breach of duty itself is what caused the wrongful death. For example, pre-existing medical conditions like heart problems could be complicating factors, and they should be assessed when preparing the case. Finally, it must be proven that the plaintiff suffered actual damages. If both breach of duty and causation do exist, damages may be presumed.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
Spouses can initiate wrongful death actions on behalf of their deceased spouses. Parents of minors, and minors who have lost parents can also pursue wrongful death claims. This is true for all states. Laws differ when it comes to adult children suing for wrongful death of parents, siblings, and extended family members. The more distant the relation is, the harder it is to receive damages. Some states do allow romantic partners of decedents and financially dependent individuals to bring wrongful death claims.
New York Laws
In New York, the wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of death to the filing date. Plaintiffs have this period of time to file this kind of lawsuit; afterwards, only specific exceptions allow plaintiffs to sue. This also means that the decedent’s estate will not be able to file a suit or seek this compensation in the future. This same limit applies to wrongful death claims filed against public entities like transit systems, government agencies, or school districts.
Brooklyn Wrongful Death Lawyers at Eaton & Torrenzano Provide Effective, Compassionate Legal Guidance for Those Who Lost Loved Ones
Wrongful death suits can be challenging and heartbreaking, but one of our Brooklyn wrongful death lawyers at Eaton & Torrenzano will assist you with this difficult process. Contact us online or call us at 718-332-7766 to schedule a free consultation today. With offices in Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York, as well as Hillsborough, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Kings County and Richmond County including the communities of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan.