1. What does the legal term “wrongful death claim” mean?
Generally speaking, a wrongful death claim refers to legal actions certain family members can take on behalf of a decedent whose death was caused by the wrongful act of another person, company or entity. The wrongful act in question can be intentional, reckless or negligent. It may not be necessary, however, to show wrongful conduct in cases in which a dangerous product is in question.
2. Who can file a wrongful death claim in New York?
A person’s spouse may bring a wrongful death claim, but if the deceased left no living spouse, his or her children may bring the wrongful death claim to court. If no spouse or children can bring the claim, the parents are next in line to pursue the wrongful death claim. With no spouse, no children and no parents, another relative or individual may be appointed as administrator of the decedent’s estate. That person can then sue on behalf of the estate.
3. Can I file a wrongful death suit on behalf of someone who never worked outside the home?
Yes. The decedent may have contributed in some other way to the family, even if he or she never worked for an income or had a job. Consider the housewife as a good example. She contributes household services to everyone and also nurtures and guides her children. The law quantifies such contributions as “pecuniary losses” in a wrongful death action. A surviving relative or appointed administrator can also bring wrongful death claims on behalf of children or other relatives who never had employment outside of the home.
4. Can the surviving family members recover damages for a decedent’s pain and suffering?
Yes. A decedent’s family may claim damages for his or her conscious pain and suffering before death, in addition to the wrongful death claim.
5. If a claimant dies before filing a personal injury lawsuit, can the surviving family members bring the claim instead?
The outcome depends upon whether the person died from the injuries for which he or she intended to file suit or from unrelated causes. If a person subsequently dies due to injuries sustained in an accident, that person’s heirs are entitled to file a lawsuit to collect damages. In most cases, if someone with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the claim survives and may be brought by the executor of the person’s estate.
6. What kinds of damages are available in wrongful death claims?
The following losses, expenses and damages are usually recoverable under a wrongful death claim:
- Funeral expenses, medical bills and other costs associated with the death
- Loss of anticipated earnings
- Victim’s benefits, such as pensions and medical coverage
- Loss of advice and guidance that would have been provided to children
- Loss of household services to the deceased’s spouse
- The deceased’s pain and suffering.
7. What are the differences between civil and criminal cases that a person can file after a relative’s wrongful death?
The government may bring criminal charges against an individual for an act that has been legally defined as a crime. Civil cases, on the other hand, usually address disputes over the rights and duties that individuals legally owe to each other. Criminal cases have a higher burden of proof than civil cases do. In civil cases, a defendant will typically have a monetary judgment entered against him or her. In most cases, insurance covers the cost of the judgment.
8. What are the costs associated with pursuing a wrongful death case?
A large percentage of law firms handle wrongful death cases and survival actions on a contingency basis, which means the firm will not charge an hourly fee. Instead, the estate will pay the firm a percentage of the settlement or judgment proceeds. The Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, often pays the expenses associated with pursuing a case and is then reimbursed after its successful conclusion. As the law requires, however, the client is ultimately responsible for disbursements associated with a case.
9. How long will it take to resolve my wrongful death claim?
A great majority of cases, wrongful death claims included, are settled prior to the trial. Some are even settled prior to an attorney’s filing suit. Others are settled at some point while attorneys litigate the matter, while some are settled “on the steps of the courthouse,” just before trial.
A wrongful death case, if litigated to trial, could last a number of years. The pursuit of a complicated wrongful death suit often takes years. It is impossible to guarantee a quick resolution, though a well-prepared case often settles without ever being tried in a courtroom.
10. What should I do if I have more questions about wrongful death cases?
Contact The Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, to discuss your wrongful death case today, and get the answers you need. You can reach us at (315) 782-3547, 1-800-TALK-LAW or fill out our online contact form. There is no charge for the initial consultation.