Woman sits on a bench in a cemetery wearing black clothing and clutching her arm for comfort

New York Wrongful Death Statute

Losing a loved one is never easy, but it is particularly harmful when the negligent actions of another cause the death of your family member.

When someone loses their life due to another’s accidental or willful actions, the decedent’s estate may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In this blog, we cover the following:

  • Laws that apply to New York wrongful death claims,
  • How the state defines a “wrongful death,”
  • Who can file a lawsuit for wrongful death,
  • What damages are recoverable in a wrongful death case, and
  • The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in New York.

The New York “Wrongful Death” Legal Definition

According to New York law §5-4.1, a “wrongful death” occurs as a result of “a wrongful act, neglect or default” as such that the decedent would have been able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit if he or she had survived.

Similar to other types of personal injury cases, several different kinds of events can qualify as a “wrongful act, neglect or default,” including:

  • Negligence-based incidents (such as car accidents)
  • Medical malpractice
  • Intentional acts (including crimes)

Note: In the case of Endresz v. Friedberg, the New York Court of Appeals asserted that New York law will not recognize wrongful death cases when a fetus expires before birth, even if the death was the result of a wrongful act of another party.

The Parties Permitted to File a New York Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a decedent. According to New York Law, the personal representative (also known as the “executor”) of the decedent’s estate must file the wrongful death lawsuit.

Dissimilar to several other states, New York law does not permit a family member to file a wrongful death lawsuit unless he or she is also the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.

Recoverable Damages in a New York Wrongful Death Case

In a wrongful death case, the losses (or damages) claimed by the personal representative will be awarded to the decedent’s survivors or estate to provide compensation for the death. The amount of compensation and the kinds of damages awarded depend on the situation of the particular case, but the following damages have been awarded in New York wrongful death cases:

  • Funeral and burial costs,
  • Reasonable healthcare expenses connected to the decedent’s final injury or illness,
  • Any monetary support the decedent would have contributed to the family,
  • The value of support and services the decedent would have provided to the family,
  • The value of parental nurturing, care, and guidance to surviving children,
  • The survivors’ lost inheritance,
  • Conscious pain and suffering incurred by the decedent as a result of the final injury or illness, and
  • Interest on the damages award, calculated from the death date.

Note: New York law disallows surviving family members to recover their own damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of companionship.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

The state of New York allows a wrongful death lawsuit to be filed within two years of the date of the death. That means if you wait longer than two years to file suit, the courts will likely throw out your case and you will be unable to pursue justice for your loved one.

That is why it is of the utmost importance not to wait on such issues like this. If your loved one lost his or her life as a result of another’s negligence, your family deserves justice. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our office right away with the details of your case.

Call The Odierno Law Firm, P.C. today at (631) 250-4212 to speak with an attorney about your potential case.