New York Wrongful Death Lawyers
For over 65 years, the New York law firm of Friedman & Ranzenhofer, PC has assisted families that have experienced such tragedies obtain just compensation. When someone dies through the negligent act of another, a New York wrongful death or survivorship claim can result.
When you lose someone you love because of an accident caused by a negligent person, It can create unspoken grief that you have to suffer through. We are so terribly sorry that you are experiencing this and that you’ve lost someone that you deeply love because of someone else’s negligence. Please know that you are entitled to justice. You and the surviving family members of your loved one who has passed deserve justice. Our New York wrongful death lawyers fight for you to be fully and fairly compensated as a result of the loss of your loved one. We fight for your rights so that you can focus on yourself and your family during this very difficult time. Call our office as soon as you possibly can and we will set up a free first consultation for you to go over the details of your case and get legal guidance from our lawyers. Justice is waiting for you, so call today.
What is Wrongful Death?
It is not always blatantly obvious that your loved one died of negligence. Some cases require investigation to confirm that they indeed are going to be a wrongful death case. We understand that you might have questions about whether or not your particular loss would be considered wrongful death. If you were thinking about bringing a claim, the easiest way to be sure you have a legal stake in this matter is to get in contact with our New York wrongful death lawyers.
Wrongful death cases boil down to whether or not the loss of your loved one could’ve been prevented had someone acted differently. Take a slip and fall claim that resulted in someone passing away as an example. If the property owner had taken the necessary precautions to keep their visitors safe, it could have prevented the victim from slipping and falling and breaking their neck. That property owner would be negligent in the claim for wrongful death if their inaction caused someone else’s harm.
Another example would be medical malpractice wrongful death. If a doctor dismissed the symptoms of, for example, a woman coming into the emergency room with shoulder pain and chest pain and that woman went home and had a heart attack and died because the doctor dismissed her symptoms, that doctor could be negligent and liable in that wrongful death claim.
Another example of what a wrongful death claim looks like is an auto accident. If someone was texting and driving and blew through a red light and T-boned another car, killing the other driver, they would be liable for that person’s death and the surviving family members of the victim could bring a claim against them.
Again, the one way you’re going to know for sure whether or not there is a claim that you could bring is to speak to our New York wrongful death lawyers. They have the experience and the knowledge to know whether or not what you and your family have gone through has left you entitled to seek damages.
The way the claim works is that you bring it against the liable party; that liable party is represented by their insurance company, which is physically and financially responsible for you and your family’s justice through compensation. Your New York wrongful death lawyers are going to fight for your rights to full and fair justice.
What Types of Cases Involve NY Wrongful Death and Survivorship Claims?
A NY wrongful death case can arise from any type of personal injury case, including: car accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, bus accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, garbage truck accident, airplane accidents, nursing home neglect, Uber accidents, dog bites, carbon monoxide poisoning, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, construction accidents, workplace accidents, boat accidents, defective products, drunk driving accidents, farm accidents, distracted driver accidents, and RV tire failure accidents.
What Types of Lawsuits are Used to Recover Damages for a Person’s Death in New York?
There are two types of lawsuits:
- The NY survivorship claim belongs to the estate for the decedent’s pain and suffering prior to death.
- The NY wrongful death claim compensates those statutory distributees who have suffered pecuniary loss as a result of the decedent’s death.
Therefore, there may be more than one plaintiff in a death case as well as separate statutes of limitations for each cause of action.
NY Survivorship Claims
What is a NY Survivorship Claim?
A NY Survivorship Claim is brought by the decedent’s estate for pre-death pain and suffering.
Is a NY Survivorship Claim Distributed According to the Decedent’s Will?
Yes, unlike a NY Wrongful Death claim, a NY Survivorship Claim is distributed according to the decedent’s Will. If the dies without a Will, the SC is distributed according to intestacy law.
What is The Statute of Limitations for a NY Survivorship Claim?
The statute of limitations for a NY Survivorship Claim is three years from the date of the accident or one year from the date of death, whichever is longer.
What Evidence is Necessary to Win a NY Survivorship Claim?
A NY Survivorship Claim for pre-death pain and suffering requires evidence that the decedent experienced “cognitive awareness,” which is defined as consciousness after the occurrence. McDougald v. Garber, 73 N.Y.2d 246 (N.Y. 1989). Consciousness may be evinced where decedent screams, moans in pain, or otherwise visibly suffers.
Evidence of conscious pain and suffering may also be inferred where a medical expert testifies that the decedent sustained injuries that did not cause instantaneous death or loss of consciousness, but did likely cause pain. Vargas v. Crown Container Co., Inc., 65 N.Y.S.3d 567 (2d Dept. 2016). However, a survivorship claim will be dismissed if there is testimony that the decedent appeared unconscious immediately following an accident, coupled with corroborating paramedic reports and a coroner’s conclusion that death was instantaneous. McKenna v. Reale, 29 N.Y.S.3d 596 (3d Dept. 2016).
What is NY Wrongful Death “Pre-Impact Terror”?
The courts also recognize “pre-impact terror” as a sub-category of conscious pain and suffering. Pre-impact terror requires evidence that a decedent was aware of his own impending death. For example, in In re 91st Street Crane Collapse Litigation, 62 N.Y.S.3d 11 (1st Dept. 2017) where a crane collapsed off of a high-rise, evidence strongly supported a finding of pre-impact terror for the crane operator who was trapped inside the crane when it fell. Witnesses in adjacent apartment buildings described the look of “sheer panic and fear” on the crane operator’s face as the crane struck other buildings on its way to the ground. There was also sufficient evidence of pre-impact terror for the worker upon whom the crane fell, as he sustained defensive injuries to his forearm and had warned coworkers to run as the crane was falling down.
How Much is Awarded for NY Wrongful Death Conscious Pain Claims?
Conscious pain awards vary widely depending on the circumstances of each case:
- An award of $1,250,000 was reduced to $400,000 where evidence established that, while the decedent was able to feel pain following a collision, she was able to do so for at most 11 to 20 minutes and that she was minimally conscious during that time. Vatalaro v. County of Suffolk, 81 N.Y.S.3d 441 (2d Dept. 2018).
- On the other hand, the Second Department affirmed an award of $3,750,000 for a decedent who remained conscious while hospitalized for three and a half days prior to death. Hyung Kee Lee v. New York Hosp. Queens, 987 N.Y.S.2d 436 (2d Dept. 2014).
The Appellate Division tends to sustain much higher verdicts for pre-impact terror and conscious pain and suffering when a defendant’s actions are grossly negligent, the injuries are particularly gruesome, or when the decedent is a child. The value of a NY Survivorship Claim for conscious pain and suffering prior to death depends on evidence regarding the interval between accident and death, the degree of consciousness, and the duration of suffering. The decedent’s own culpable conduct is also considered when apportioning damages.
NY Wrongful Death
What is a NY Wrongful Death claim?
NY Wrongful Death claim is designed to compensate a decedent’s survivors for economic losses. The essential elements of a Wrongful Death claim are:
- Death caused by the wrongful conduct of defendant. The burden of proving the defendant’s wrongful conduct is not as high as in cases where an injured plaintiff can himself describe the event. See Noseworthy v. City of New York, 298 N.Y. 76, 80, 80 N.E.2d 744.
- Survival by distributees who have suffered pecuniary loss by reason of the death. Unlike a Survivorship claim, only distributees as defined by EPTL 4-1.1 can share in the proceeds of a wrongful death action. Wrongful death damages are designed to compensate distributees solely for their pecuniary injuries resulting from the death of the decedent and, therefore, are not considered part of the decedent’s estate.
- Appointment of an executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a NY Wrongful Death Claim?
The statute of limitations for a Wrongful Death claim is two years, measured from the date of death, subject to certain exceptions. See Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL) § 5-4.1.
Who is at Fault in a Wrongful Death Claim?
When you go through a case like this, obviously you have to be able to identify who you are bringing your claim against. It is your New York wrongful death lawyer’s job to identify the liable party in the incident. They need to be able to prove that this person was responsible for the death of your loved one and how they acted differently your loved one might’ve been alive today. They also need to then, in a timely manner, bring the claim against this liable party.
With wrongful death, if someone is acting negligently and your lawyers are able to prove this, then that person is likely going to be the liable party in your loved one’s passing. You deserve this kind of closure. We understand that no amount of compensation brings back your loved one or tempers the grief that you and your family are experiencing but when people are guilty of negligence you deserve that justice. You deserve to tell them what they did was wrong and they won’t get away with it.
Understand that this is not a criminal case and you are not going to be putting anyone in jail unless there was an intent to kill. But a wrongful death claim is a civil case and the deaths are accidental. Therefore, justice is going to be compensatory instead of criminal.
Who is the Plaintiff for a Wrongful Death Claim?
When you consider how lawsuits like this happen, there is typically one person who represents the family and brings the claim. They are called the plaintiff. This person is going to work closely with the New York wrongful death lawyers to settle the claim fairly. Please understand that they are not going to be the only ones who get compensation. They just represent themselves, the family, and the loved one who has passed.
Most of the time with wrongful death, the plaintiff is going to be the spouse of the victim. If that victim wasn’t married, the adult children would be the plaintiff. If the children are minors and/or they were unmarried, then the parents of the victim would be the plaintiff.
Please understand that every wrongful death claim is different just like every person’s life is different. Not every person is going to have the nuclear family to be the plaintiff. Having New York wrongful death lawyers look over your case is going to be the surest way to identify the plaintiff in your loved one’s wrongful death claim. We will be able to discuss this in detail during your free initial consultation.
Recoverable Wrongful Death Damages
Most injury and wrongful death lawyers will tell you that damages for a wrongful death claim are difficult to put a value on because most of the damages you are suffering are what we consider non-economic damages. Non-economic damages can include your loved one’s pain and suffering they went through before they passed. It can also include the mental anguish that you have to endure because of the loss of a loved one. Money does not replace a relationship that you have lost with someone you love, but this is the justice that is available for you to seek. We will fight to get full justice; in some cases, bringing a claim like this can prevent someone else from having to go through this at the hands of the liable party.
NY Wrongful Death claim damages are limited to “fair and just” compensation for the pecuniary injuries resulting from decedent’s death, including:
- Your love one’s pain and suffering before passing
- Loss of support, voluntary assistance, and possible inheritance
- The cost of treatment and care they incurred before passing
- Costs of funeral and burial
- The potential earnings your loved one would have received had they lived a full life not cut short by this incident
- Loss of services such as cooking, cleaning, and driving
Can Loss of Consortium be recovered for NY Wrongful Death?
No, Loss of consortium claims are not recoverable under the statute. A surviving spouse can recover for loss of consortium for the period prior to the decedent’s death, but this is a derivative action of the decedent’s claim for conscious pain and suffering. See Liff v. Schildkrout, 427 N.Y.S.2d 746, (1980). No damages are awardable for the grief or suffering of the distributee or the lost companionship, comfort or assistance the decedent would have provided. See Bumpurs v. New York City Housing Authority, 527 N.Y.S.2d 217 (1st Dept. 1988).
Can Loss of Parental Guidance be Recovered in a NY Wrongful Death Claim?
The pecuniary value of parental guidance and support has been recognized by the Courts. See Tilley v. Hudson Railroad Co., 24 N.Y. 471 (1862). These losses are highly fact-specific, =and each individual scenario will be subject to scrutiny. For example, in Gardner v. State, 24 N.Y.S.3d 805 (4th Dept. 2015), the court declined to disturb an award of $875,000 for the decedent’s children for past and future loss of parental guidance, despite the fact that both children were teenagers at the time of death.
By contrast, in Estevez v. Tam, 49 N.Y.S.3d 167 (2d Dept. 2017), the Second Department upheld a jury verdict awarding zero damages for the loss of parental guidance where the decedent was 65, divorced, retired, living by himself, and provided no financial support to his three adult sons.
In order to establish a right to a wrongful death recovery, the plaintiff need only show that he had a reasonable expectation of support from the decedent. The calculation of the precise amount of damages is then a question for the jury.
How Does a NY Jury Determine Compensation for Pecuniary Injuries?
In determining what is “fair and just” compensation for the pecuniary injuries resulting from wrongful death, the jury may consider a number of factors: the age, health and life expectancy of decedent at the time of injury; decedent’s work habits and present position; decedent’s future earning capacity and potential for career advancement; and the number, age and life expectancy of decedent’s distributees.
In Vargas v. Crown Container Co., Inc., awards of $650,000 for past pecuniary loss and $350,000 for future pecuniary loss were considered reasonable compensation for the one-year-old son of a 22-year-old garbage collector who worked two jobs at the time of his death.
A distributee must provide evidence of the value of the lost services. In Merola v. Catholic Medical Center of Brooklyn and Queens, 808 N.Y.S.2d 395 (2d Dept. 2005) the Court reduced an award for the value of household chores performed by a decedent wife from $250,000 to $50,000 because the plaintiff husband failed to provide expert testimony as to the value of the lost services. However, in Vasquez v. County of Nassau, 938 N.Y.S.2d 109 (2d Dept. 2012), the Second Department upheld an award of $1.8 million for future loss of household services in an action where the distributee was a disabled, minor child and the plaintiff presented expert testimony that established the decedent’s financial support and her child’s special, lifetime needs.
Call Our New York Wrongful Death Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation
When someone you love is lost in an accident because of another one’s negligence, it can create an indescribable grief. We want to help you get the justice that you and your family deserve. Our New York wrongful death lawyers stand by victims and surviving family members of wrongful death cases to fight for the fullest in fairest justice possible. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office to set up your first legal consultation. We will go over the details of your case and give you guidance on what steps you should take next. Call us today.