In New York, the decedent’s personal representative must file a wrongful claim; however, this claim may serve as an action for surviving family members to receive compensation. In that sense, the following individuals are the people who can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent:
- The decedent’s spouse
- The decedent’s children or next of kin
- The decedent’s parents or legal guardians
Unless they have been assigned the role of “personal representative,” the decedent’s siblings or cousins are not eligible to file a wrongful death claim.
Eligible Surviving Family Members May Qualify for Compensable Damages
If you qualify to bring a wrongful death case forward, you may be able to demand compensation for multiple damages that your loved one experienced or as a result of your loved one’s passing. Your lawyer can help you assess what kind of damages you qualify to claim in your wrongful death case, which might include:
- Funeral expenses: this can include the costs of funeral services, burial or cremation services, transportation of the remains, and other preparations.
- Medical expenses: if your loved one was receiving medical treatment for their fatal injuries, be it emergency care or hospital care, you may be compensated to pay off these medical debts.
- Loss of financial support: if your loved one financially contributed to the family’s income, you may be compensated for income you lost since their passing, as well as lost future income from your loved one.
- Loss of emotional support: whether you are the decedent’s spouse, child, or parent, you may claim damages related to losing a valuable member in your life. This type of damage can include loss of companionship, parental guidance, and love and affection.
- Pain and suffering: If your loved one experienced intense physical or emotional pain up until their death, you may be able to collect compensation for their suffering. Alternatively, you may also claim pain and suffering if their death brought you intense grief, mental anguish, and even trauma.
Your wrongful death lawyer may suggest other damages to pursue based on the circumstances of your loved one’s death. For example, if your loved one passed away as a result of a motor vehicle collision, you may be able to claim compensation for property damage to their vehicle and possessions inside.
How a Wrongful Death Settlement Is Divided
Though more than one surviving family member may be eligible to receive wrongful death damages on behalf of their loved one, the proceeds are not always equally divided. Depending on your relationship with the decedent, the compensation settlement may be divided as so:
- If there is a surviving spouse but no children: the spouse receives the entire settlement amount.
- If there is a surviving spouse with children: the spouse receives $50,000 immediately. The remaining balance is then divided in half, of which the spouse receives one half and the children divide the other half evenly among themselves.
- If there are surviving children but no spouse: the children divide the settlement evenly among themselves. If there is only one child, that child receives the entire settlement.
- If there is no surviving spouse and children: the decedent’s parents or legal guardians receive the entire settlement amount.
- If there are no surviving family members: the decedent’s personal representative may receive the settlement amount or choose where the award goes to, such as other family members.
You May Have to Consider Bringing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In some cases, wrongful death claims can come to a standstill if the insurance companies or opposing parties refuse to cooperate during negotiations or do not agree to your compensation demands. With a wrongful death claim, it is common to negotiate a settlement amount with these parties, which can involve an extensive back-and-forth process as you and your lawyer reassess each offer given to you.
Before you agree to a settlement offer, you may want to consider whether the settlement offer fairly covers most or all of your damages, as well as the pros and cons of going to court. Your lawyer can provide advice to help you make this decision, but you should also note that there is a statute of limitations on wrongful death cases.
New York Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPT) §5-4.1 generally gives claimants two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you are filing against a municipality, then General Municipalities Law (GMU) §50-E gives you 90 days to file your notice of claim.
Hire a Lawyer from Morelli Law Firm to Help You File Your Claim
If a loved one recently passed away due to another party’s negligence, you might be able to receive compensation for their wrongful death. Call Morelli Law Firm at (212) 751-9800 to learn more about who can bring a wrongful death claim and whether your relationship with the decedent may qualify you for compensation. Our team is ready to answer any other questions you might have about the claims process, and they can explain other legal options available to you.
Call today for a free consultation. Our law firm understands this period of your life may be difficult to endure. Our legal team treats all of our clients with compassion, patience, and empathy. You do not have to endure this hardship alone.