A tragic jet ski accident leaves one man dead and another man injured. 

On August 22, 2020, two men were seen riding jet skis in the Harlem River. Around 8:00 p.m., the jet skis collided into each other just off the shore at 203rd Street and Ninth Avenue in Inwood.

The two men were pulled from the water. Both were unconscious. Emergency medical services rushed both men to the New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The 35-year-old-man was pronounced dead at the hospital. The 37-year-old-man sustained minor injuries from the jet ski accident. 

The cause of the accident was unknown. No other information was available. 

Tragic Accidents Can Lead to Wrongful Death Claims

In many wrongful death cases, the cause of the death is an avoidable accident. The death does not need to be intentional to lead to a wrongful death claim. The fatality can occur because of an accident or a recreational activity, such as jet skiing. 

Situations that can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit include, but are not limited to:

Almost any accident could lead to a wrongful death claim if the actions of another party caused the death of one person. 

New York’s wrongful death laws do not require a party to commit an intentional act for a death to be considered “wrongful.” The death can be “wrongful” if it meets the following criteria:

  • The death was the result of reckless or negligent behavior
  • The deceased person could have pursued a legal course of action for damages had the person lived
  • The deceased person is survived by at least one person who sustained economic losses because of the death 
  • There are damages that the deceased’s estate can recover

A wrongful death claim cannot bring back a loved one, but it can compensate for damages to help family members cope with the financial damages caused by the sudden loss of a loved one. New York has specific rules in place for who has the right to file a wrongful death claim and how long they have to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York?

New York wrongful death lawsuits work differently than in other states. In many states, family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, in New York, the personal representative for the probate estate has the authority to file a wrongful death lawsuit. 

The money received from the wrongful death lawsuit is held in trust by the estate. The estate then distributes the funds to the heirs. Usually, the surviving spouse and children receive the funds from the wrongful death claim since they are dependent upon the person financially.

If there are no surviving spouse or children, the deceased person’s parents or other relatives might recover funds from a wrongful death lawsuit. 

The damages recovered by filing a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Medical expenses incurred by the deceased between the date of the accident through the date of death
  • Reasonable expenses for funeral and burial
  • Loss of income that the deceased would have earned had he lived
  • Loss of parental guidance, companionship, love, and affection
  • Loss of inheritance 
  • Pain and suffering the deceased person may have sustained from the date of injury through the date of death

In some cases, the family may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are reserved for cases involving grossly negligent or intentional acts that lead to a death. 

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Have Deadlines

There are deadlines to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York. In most cases, the statute of limitations or deadlines for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of the person’s death. 

If a claim is not filed within the two-year deadline, the family loses the right to pursue a claim for damages. Wrongful death claims can be complicated. It can take time to investigate the cause of death and gather evidence proving that the death was “wrongful.”

It is generally best to consult with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after losing a loved one. A lawyer can guide you through the steps of filing a wrongful death lawsuit, including setting up the probate estate and appointing someone to act as the personal representative for the lawsuit.

Because it can be overwhelming to deal with the death of a loved one, having an attorney to handle the legal matters can give the family time to grieve while protecting their right to pursue justice for their loved one and themselves.