When negligence leads to an accident that results in death, filing a wrongful death case can provide recourse. While many parts of such a case will cover the same ground as a personal injury case, wrongful death suits also have some unique aspects.

Typically, wrongful death claims arise as a result of highly serious accidents. In many such cases, a person may have to deal with several defendants, including corporate ones, as well as their insurance companies. Thus, a plaintiff should seek out qualified legal help before moving forward.

Basic elements

To prevail in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff will need to show that a person died due to the defendant’s negligence or wrongful conduct, that the person in question could have pursued this claim as a personal injury case if not for the death, that surviving people suffered loss because of the death and that recoverable damages exist.

Who can sue

In New York State, the person bringing the wrongful death claim must be the estate’s personal representative, whether or not that person is a family member. However, the suit can recover damages suffered by surviving family members. As the plaintiff, the personal representative holds any such damages in trust and must then distribute them properly.

Available damages

Courts may award various types of damages in a wrongful death case. Awards may cover losses suffered directly by the deceased, such as medical expenses and pain and suffering as well as wage loss incurred before death. A suit can also compensate the estate for funeral costs.

Surviving family members may recover for losing the financial and other services the deceased would have provided to them. They may also recover for lost inheritance. Children may recover for lost parental guidance. Survivors may not always recover for their own emotional pain resulting from the death. Unlike other states, New York does not allow recovery for loss of companionship and similar damages – the loss must be for a specific, tangible type of service the deceased would have provided.