Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. | March 1, 2022 | Wrongful Death
Nothing can take away the pain of losing a loved one. But it’s normal to want justice, especially when it was someone else’s fault.
A wrongful death claim is a way for loved ones to hold the negligent party accountable and deter them from engaging in similar conduct in the future. It can help a family pay for expenses related to the death, compensate them for their loss, and ease the impact of losing financial support from a loved one.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?
A wrongful death case is a type of personal injury case. In a personal injury case, usually the injured party files a lawsuit to recover damages. If someone died because of their injuries, they can’t file a lawsuit. That means that someone else needs to file it on their behalf.
According to the New York wrongful death statute, a wrongful death claim is a lawsuit filed by a decedent’s personal representative for the wrongful act, neglect, or default that caused their death.
Can Anyone File a Wrongful Death Claim?
New York is different from other states regarding who can file a wrongful death claim. In many states, certain close relatives can file the lawsuit on behalf of their loved one. That’s not the case in NY.
Instead, only a personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Usually, this person was appointed in the decedent’s will. It’s common for the personal representative to be the executor of the will, administrator of the estate, or legal guardian. If there is no named personal representative before death, the court can appoint one afterward to file the lawsuit.
The personal representative can file the wrongful death lawsuit and recover damages for the family. The personal representative will hold the money in a trust and oversee its management until it is distributed to the family according to the court’s order.
What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim in New York is usually based on negligence or an intentional act.
Negligence is when someone fails to use reasonable care, resulting in an injury to someone else. When someone is negligent, they didn’t intentionally cause harm; it resulted from their careless actions. When someone acts intentionally, they knowingly take a certain action. An intentional act that leads to the death of another may also be a crime.
To prove a wrongful death case in New York, you must show the following elements:
- Someone died
- The defendant engaged in negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct that caused the death
- The decedent would be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived
- The family suffered economic and emotional damages because of the death
- The amount of the damages
If you can prove each of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence, you are likely to win the wrongful death lawsuit and recover damages.
What Evidence is Used in a Wrongful Death Claim?
You must produce enough evidence for the court to rule in your favor, but not every type of evidence is allowed in court. The New York Rules of Evidence govern what can and cannot be admitted as evidence in court. It also controls how a lawyer can question the witnesses.
The particular evidence in a wrongful death trial will vary from case to case, but the most common types of evidence are:
- A certified copy of the death certificate or an autopsy report
- Eyewitness testimony
- Relevant police reports
- Video and photographic evidence of the injuries
- The defendant’s own admissions or statements
- Medical records detailing the decedent’s injuries and the official cause of death
- Expert testimony as it relates to scientific and medical issues in the case
If you’re planning on filing a wrongful death claim, you’ll need to take time to collect the evidence and safeguard it for court. You should also hire a wrongful death lawyer to help investigate the cause of death and collect the evidence needed to win the case. An experienced lawyer will give you advice on the best (and worst) pieces of evidence for your case.