Can And Should You Sue For Wrongful Death? 

 illustration of Wrongful Death title on Legal DocumentsWhen a family member passes away because of the fault, negligence, or recklessness of another person, the decedent’s named personal representative can sue on behalf of the decedent in a civil wrongful death lawsuit. It is understandable to want a defendant to be held responsible for the loss of your family member and damages that you have suffered. Spouses, children, and parents of deceased family members can ultimately receive monetary compensation including: 

  • Funeral and burial costs 
  • Healthcare and pain and suffering costs related to the cause of death 
  • Lost wages and income 
  • Reasonable value for the support and care that the decedent gave to close family members 
  • Inheritance 
  • Punitive damages in certain circumstances 

Past Cases 

In New York, The Estate Powers and Trust Law in the State Constitution lays out the rules for wrongful death. Courts have given verdicts in favor of plaintiffs for deaths that have occurred in fatal car accidents, poorly maintained premises, medical malpractice, and deaths at work, for example. Each case is unique but depending on the facts of your case, a New York licensed attorney will be able to tell you what you might be able to recover. Additionally, experienced attorneys will know exactly how to pursue your case and answer any pressing questions that you may have. 

Courts may also award more or less money depending on what happened. If the deceased was partially at fault, courts will typically award less but if the defendant acted maliciously, you could be awarded more. Even though an attorney will not be able to give you an exact dollar amount of what you will receive, attorneys can still tell you whether you likely have a successful case on your hands, what you can potentially recover, and guide you along the way. 

Statute Of Limitations 

The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in New York is two years. This means that a decedent’s personal representative will only have two years following the death to pursue a lawsuit. Waiting past the statute of limitations will result in a court not hearing the wrongful death claim unless there is a rare exception. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible will ensure that your case a filed in time.  

Even when you are still deciding whether you should sue or not, an attorney will be able to explain what the likely outcome is. After all, it is never too early to get the ball rolling, but it can get to be too late. Even if you think it might be too late, an attorney will also be able to let you know if you fall under any few exceptions that could allow suit.  

Contact Us 

We always give free initial consultations so if you’re thinking about filing a lawsuit, we can discuss what happened and let you know what we can do for you. We will not charge you anything until you win your lawsuit, so there are no obligations. Our attorneys at O’Brien and Ford know that you are going through a difficult time after the death of a loved one, but we will do anything possible to make this an easier time for you. 

Call us at your earliest convenience: (716) 330-2901. 

Common Wrongful Death Questions 

Wrongful death form and stethoscope on a table.What Is A Wrongful Death Claim? 

When a person passes away because of the negligence of another person, the appointed personal representative can sue on behalf of the decedent. The personal representative is often a family member, but a neutral third party may also be appointed.

If the claim is successful, the personal representative will hold the money in trust to distribute to the heirs of the decedent. The heirs of the decedent will typically be the decedent’s spouse (if married), children (if a parent), parents (if no spouse or children), or siblings (if there are no surviving spouses, children, or parents). 

How Much Can You Receive? 

In New York, while you cannot receive monetary awards for your own personal pain and suffering, you can recover for any pain and suffering that the decedent suffered. Additionally, you will be able to recover funeral and burial costs, medical costs contributed to treating the decedent up to his or her death, lost income, and the loss of value for the services, support, and parenting to close family members due to the death.

Punitive damages (to punish the defendant) are only imposed in rare cases, typically where the facts show that the defendant acted with extreme recklessness or malice.  

While you may be able to receive monetary relief for your loss, an experienced personal injury attorney will need to review the relevant facts surrounding your case to let you know whether it is worth it to sue and how much you could earn. Dollar amounts are based on the facts surrounding the death. An attorney experienced in wrongful death suits will be able to determine an estimate, as each case is different.

Specifically, cases surrounding wrongful deaths of children or elders may be more challenging because the factors that determine the amount of compensation are difficult to accurately put a dollar amount to. These factors include life and work expectancy, age and health, and reliability.  

How Long Do You Have To Sue? 

Each state has enacted a statute of limitations for when a plaintiff can file suit for different causes of actions. The reasoning behind these is to ensure that defendants are able to defend themselves without the risk of lost evidence or memory.

When too much time has surpassed, the claim is considered “stale.” Presumably, if a plaintiff has a case, he or she needs to file suit within a reasonable amount of time, which is why states have enacted these limitations to depict when a claim becomes stale.  

In New York, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is two years from the day of the decedent’s death. Therefore, if you think you may have a successful wrongful death claim, you should not delay reaching out to an attorney so that your case is timely and properly filed within the time limitation.

New York has allowed for narrow exceptions to the two-year rule, so even if you have surpassed the two-year limitation, you should contact an attorney to see if you fall within one of these few exceptions, as you have nothing to lose. However, it will always be beneficial for you to timely file rather than try to fall under an exception. 

Contact Us 

The attorneys at O’Brien & Ford are skilled and experienced in the realm of personal injury law including wrongful death claims. We understand that this is a difficult time for you, but we will be there to help you every step of the way. Do not wait or hesitate to call us at (716) 330-2901 today.