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What Is A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit occurs when an individual is killed due to the negligence or intentional act or misconduct of another. Wrongful death claims can be brought by the deceased’s survivors. These claims usually seek compensation for their medical expenses, funeral costs, lost inheritance, and other damages.

Every state has different wrongful death laws. For example, wrongful death statutes can be different from one state to another. For instance, in New York, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed two years from the date of death, whereas in Tennessee, the statute of limitations is one year after the date of death.

Wrongful death cases are different from criminal cases. That means that if someone kills another person, the murderer will have to face criminal charges but the decedent’s survivor can also file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits can result from a wide range of incidents, including car accidents and product liability.

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What are the different types of wrongful death?

As previously stated, there are several events that can lead to someone’s death and therefore to a wrongful death lawsuit. Here are some of the most common cases:

Car accidents

Automobile collisions are one of the most common causes of wrongful death claims. A driver can be considered to be negligent if they are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if they are driving recklessly or if they are not obeying the traffic laws. 

Medical malpractice

Medical malpractice cases are usually more complicated than the rest of wrongful death cases. Demonstrating that a doctor or medical institution was negligent is not easy. A wrongful death lawsuit can be initiated if the deceased person died as a result of misdiagnosis, incorrect medical treatment, or any other form of carelessness. 

Intentional killing

If the defendant intentionally killed someone, the decedent’s survivors can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the killer.

Product liability

A product manufacturer can be held responsible for someone’s death if that person died as a result of the malfunctioning of a product they manufactured.  

Wrongful death lawsuits can be brought in a variety of situations, but these are the most typical. At the end of the day, they are all based on the same idea.

What happens during a wrongful death lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit has to be filed by a representative, who is acting on behalf of the “real parties in interest”.  The “real parties in interest” are usually the decedent’s survivors. For example, their immediate family members. Each state has different rules and regulations regarding who can be the real parties in interest. Most of the time, the representative is also the executor of the deceased person’s state.

During the lawsuit, the representative must ensure that these criteria are present:

  • The death of an individual that was caused by another person due to negligence or intentional act. 
  • All of the expenses incurred by the survivor must be documented.
  • The appointment of a personal representative for the decedent’s estate.
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Who can sue for wrongful death in New York?

In New York, the law allows the following people to bring a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • The decedent’s spouse.
  • The decedent’s children.
  • The decedent’s parents.
  • The personal representative for the decedent’s estate.

In New York, siblings or cousins cannot bring a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are some exceptions in which it is permitted. If the decent’s siblings or cousins were appointed as their legal guardian or personal representative, they can file a wrongful death lawsuit, as long as there are no surviving children, spouses, or parents.

How hard is it to prove wrongful death?

Proving wrongful death lawsuits, depending on the nature of the event, can be very hard. In some cases, a lot of evidence will be required in order to prove that the defendant was negligent and caused someone’s death. Wrongful death attorneys may also employ the services of other experts, such as accident reconstructionists, to gain a better understanding of the circumstances.

How are wrongful death settlement amounts determined?

Wrongful death settlements are calculated by adding all the economic and non-economic damages. For example, medical expenses, funeral expenditures, lost inheritance, and interest payments are considered economical damages that can be recovered. Other non-economic damages include pain and suffering and the loss of care, service, and/or guidance that the deceased person could have provided to their spouse, children, etc. Typically, punitive damages can not be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit.

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How are wrongful death settlements paid out?

When the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant’s insurer will have to mail a check to the plaintiff’s attorney. Then, the attorney will have to deposit the check into a trust account until the funds are cleared. Once the funds have been cleared, the attorney will deduct all legal fees, costs, and service fees. Finally, a check will be mailed to the defendant’s survivor and the settlement amount has to be distributed as follows: 

  • If there are no children, the deceased person’s spouse receives the entire settlement amount.
  • If the victim was married and had children. The spouse is immediately compensated with $50,000. The remaining funds are split between the spouse and the children. The quantity given to each child must be the same.
  • If the victim has only children, the payment is split equally among them.
  • If the victim did not have children or a spouse, but their parents were still alive, they would be awarded the entire sum. If the parents are divorced, the settlement will be split 50/50 between them.

How do you start a wrongful death claim?

Losing a loved one can be a very traumatic experience. Nevertheless, if your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence, you can seek compensation. One of the most important things to do is to seek the assistance of a wrongful death attorney. Professional legal advice is necessary to be able to get the best possible outcome if you plan on filing a lawsuit. At Greenberg and Stein P.C., you will find some of the best and most experienced attorneys in New York. After the death of a loved one, our legal team has assisted many of our clients in recovering fair compensation. Call us at 888-716-4137 to schedule a free case consultation with one of our lawyers to review your case. 

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