What Types Of Compensation Are Available To The Victim’s Family?
Retaining a leading wrongful death attorney to institute a wrongful death lawsuit is of paramount importance not only to prove liability against the defendant(s), but also because of New York's restrictive and nuanced laws as they relate to what monetary damages can be recovered in a wrongful death action.
Wrongful death cases in New York are governed by the New York Estates, Powers and Trust Laws (also known as the EPTL). Section 5-4.1 of the EPTL is entitled "action by personal representative for wrongful act, neglect or default causing death of decedent." This statute authorizes a representative of the estate (usually a surviving family member) to bring a legal action for wrongful death. In simpler terms, a family member is customarily appointed administrator of the decedent's estate and is in effect the plaintiff bringing the lawsuit. However, it should be noted that the person appointed administrator is not determinative of how much compensation they or other family members may be entitled to as a result of the death of a loved one. Section 5-4.3 of the EPTL governs the type of losses that can result in monetary damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. The statute is a pecuniary loss statute, which means that all allowable damages under this statute are limited to, and measured by, economic loss.
Economic Loss in A Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The most common example of economic loss suffered in a wrongful death action involves the death of a loved one who financially supported the family. In such instances, our wrongful death attorneys routinely will retain an economist to provide his or her opinion on the economic loss that is suffered by the next of kin. The calculation of economic loss can be more complicated than one might expect, since it is not as simple as merely determining what a wage earner would have earned during his or her life expectancy, had he or she survived. Wage increases must be considered, as well benefits that the family may have lost such as medical, pension and/or annuity benefits. Moreover, a personal consumption analysis must be made by the economist hired by your law firm. Indeed, the loss to the family is not the entire income of the decedent, but rather the income of the victim minus any amount they would have personally consumed. It is much better to address such issues head on, rather than leaving them to the defendant to undermine the credibility of your client's own expert for failing to perform a complete and accurate analysis.
Although the Estates, Powers and Trust Law limits losses to pecuniary or economic damages, a family's economic damages can be measured in other ways beyond the deceased's income. For example, there is an economic value of the loss of services of the decedent to the surviving spouse. A jury can evaluate such services and assign an economic loss to them, which serves as a measure of economic damages that can be recovered by the surviving spouse. Similarly, if the decedent had children, there is an economic value that can and should be evaluated to determine the value of the loss of parental guidance suffered by the decedent's children. Typically, monetary awards in such cases are heavily dependent on the age of the surviving child. For instance, the loss of parental guidance to a 2-year-old is typically greater than the same loss to an 18-year-old. However, contrary to misconceptions among lawyers inexperienced in this area of New York law, children of any age have a legal right to monetary recovery for the loss of the advice and care of a parent who suffered wrongful death.
Pain & Suffering In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The family of an individual who has suffered a wrongful death may also be able to recoup compensation for pain and suffering. This cause of action is outside the EPTL and does not involve economic loss. Rather, it involves monetary compensation to the decedent (and thus to his or her estate) for any pain and suffering they endured prior to death as a result of the defendant’s negligence. The period of time of pain and suffering could be seconds, minutes, hours, days or even years. Our wrongful death attorneys typically hire forensic medical experts in such cases – especially when there are serious issues as to the length and nature of any pain and suffering that occurred prior to death. The length and nature of any suffering are the focus of a jury in determining this aspect of damages, and thus it is imperative to prepare to prove the same for purposes of any settlement and for a potential trial.
Can I Receive Compensation For My Emotional Distress Following The Wrongful Death Of A Relative?
Unfortunately, New York is among the few states that do not permit monetary damages for the emotional distress caused by the loss of a loved one. Our clients are often shocked when learning of this limitation. Our New York wrongful death attorneys view these laws as antiquated and unfair; we are active in lobbying the New York State Legislature to try to get these laws changed and to allow compensation for the emotional distress caused by the loss of a loved one.
In some cases, however, it should be noted that there is an important exception in New York State to the general rule which precludes compensation for negligent infliction of emotional distress. This is commonly known as the "zone of danger" exception. The exception applies if the family member was actually present and/or observed the accident which caused the death of his or her loved one. In such cases that the aggrieved family member was in this zone of danger at the time of the accident, he or she may be entitled to a legal recovery for the emotional distress caused by the negligence of the defendant. The zone of danger rule is yet another example of New York's nuanced and multifaceted wrongful death laws, making the choice of one's wrongful death attorney especially important.
Do Your Attorneys Handle Accidental Death Or Dismemberment Cases?
Yes. Our wrongful death attorneys have been helping families recover compensation for over 60 years – this includes cases of accidental deaths or dismemberments. Our lawyers will treat you and your family with compassion while we aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve.
Losing a loved one is traumatic under any circumstances, but when the death is sudden and unexpected, the survivors suffer even greater pain. An accidental death typically leaves a family in emotional and financial distress, unsure of how to move forward. Additionally, our attorneys can help people who have suffered an accidental dismemberment, such as the amputation of an arm, hand, leg or foot. This type of permanent disfigurement and disability will incur significant medical costs. The injured victim and his or her family may need compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost income.
There are serious financial consequences of an accidental death or dismemberment. We will help you calculate the compensation you will need for your expenses. We work with economic experts to calculate the loss of the victim’s future earnings, as well as your family’s future expenses. Compensation may cover losses such as:
- Medical bills
- Funeral costs
- The loss of a loved one/emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering of the victim, when appropriate
- Lost wages
People who are faced with an accidental death or dismemberment may need legal representation to obtain compensation from the negligent party, as well as from their own insurance policies. Our wrongful death attorneys successfully fight insurance companies for compensation every day and can help you take on your insurance carrier or that of the negligent party.
Victims’ Families Should Contact A New York Wrongful Death Attorney Immediately
Due to the statute of limitations, it is important for families of deceased individuals to seek the counsel of a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. In most cases, the statute of limitations for New York wrongful death lawsuits is 2 years. The statute of limitations is a law that specifies the amount of time an individual has to file a claim following an incident. Failure to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires can result in victim's families being forever barred from the compensation they may be eligible to receive. As a result, it is imperative that victim's families hire a lawyer who will handle their claims in a timely manner. Our wrongful death attorneys have decades of combined experience handling claims. We understand all of the time constraints posed by the statute of limitations. Our attorneys file all of our clients' claims in a timely manner so that they may be eligible to receive compensation for the damages caused by their loved one's death.
Top New York Wrongful Death Attorneys
Our attorneys are recognized as leaders in New York wrongful death trial law. 6 of our attorneys have achieved AV Preeminent status with Martindale-Hubbell representing the highest ranking for ethical standards and legal ability. 5 of our attorneys have been included in Super Lawyers® in the New York Metropolitan Area as published in the Magazine Section of the New York Times. Our firm is listed among the Best Lawyers® in the State of New York and is listed among the Best Law Firms in the New York Metro area by US News & World Report.