Rose on a casket

What Is the Process for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

By David Hammond

Losing a family member because of someone else’s actions is an unimaginable tragedy, and it’s natural to want justice after such a loss. New York law allows the families of those who die because of the wrongdoing of others to seek compensation for their loss. However, these cases involve complex rules and procedures. It’s crucial to work with an experienced, compassionate, wrongful death lawyer.

The Syracuse wrongful death attorneys at CDH Law firmly believe in protecting the rights of families who have lost someone through another party’s negligent or intentional actions. This blog explains how to file a wrongful death lawsuit and provides other essential information regarding these cases.

New York’s Definition of Wrongful Death

New York law defines a wrongful death as any death resulting from another party’s wrongful actions, failure to act, or neglect. Essentially, the critical factor in a wrongful death claim is whether your family member died because someone else either intentionally harmed them or failed to take reasonable measures to prevent their death.

Deaths from car accidents are common wrongful deaths in New York. If someone dies because a distracted driver hit them, for instance, the distracted driver might be liable for their death.

New York Wrongful Death Claim Process

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in New York can be a challenging process, especially during a time of loss. Here’s a basic guide to the steps involved:

  • Determine eligibility: According to New York law, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is the only one who can file the lawsuit. This could be a family member or someone named in the deceased’s will.
  • Gather evidence: Compelling evidence is crucial in a wrongful death claim. You and your legal team must gather any documents or information that shows how the death happened and why someone else bears the blame.
  • File the lawsuit: With the help of a lawyer, the personal representative needs to file the lawsuit, which starts the official legal process. Filing a lawsuit involves preparing legal documents that explain what happened and what compensation you’re asking for.
  • Prove your case: During the lawsuit, you must show how your family member’s death resulted from someone else’s actions or failure to act. Your lawyer can help present evidence and argue the case.
  • Settlement or trial: Many wrongful death lawsuits settle out of court. If not, the case will go to trial, and a judge or jury will decide the outcome.

Who Can Recover Compensation in a New York Wrongful Death Claim?

The compensation from a successful wrongful death claim goes to the deceased’s heirs. Depending on the deceased’s surviving family members, any compensation from the claim goes to the following parties:

  • If the deceased has a surviving spouse and surviving children, they can recover compensation.
  • If the deceased has a surviving spouse but no surviving children, the spouse can recover compensation.
  • If the deceased has surviving children but no surviving spouse, the children collect the compensation.
  • If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children, the deceased’s parents can recover compensation.
  • If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children or parents, the deceased’s living siblings can collect compensation.
  • If no surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings exist, the deceased’s grandparents can collect compensation.

Potential Compensation in a New York Wrongful Death Case

While the specific amount you can recover depends on the facts of your case, a wrongful death claim can include compensation for many of the losses you have suffered, including:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The deceased’s medical and healthcare expenses
  • Lost wages and income
  • Lost inheritance
  • The deceased’s pain and suffering
  • Loss of support and services
  • Loss of parental nurturance, guidance, and education
  • Loss of companionship

Deadline to File a New York Wrongful Death Lawsuit

New York law says that in most circumstances, you have two years from the date of the deceased’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. While exceptions to this rule exist, it’s in your interest to speak with an attorney about your case as soon as possible.

If you have questions about New York wrongful death cases or wish to file a lawsuit, the team at CDH Law can help. Call us today or complete our contact form for a free consultation.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.