Wrongful death laws, which exist in all 50 states and vary from state to state, generally provide the ability for a decedent's beneficiaries to file a lawsuit for a death that was caused by a wrongful act or negligence of another. For example, deaths caused by drunk driving, the manufacture of defective or dangerous products, the construction of an unsound structure or building, or failing to diagnose a fatal disease, may trigger wrongful death claims.
The types of damages recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit will vary depending on the jurisdiction. Below are some examples of types of damages that may be recoverable:
- Loss of anticipated future earnings the deceased would have provided
- Lost benefits from the death, e.g. pension or retirement benefits
- Expense associated with the death, e.g., medical bills and funeral costs
- Loss of inheritance from an untimely death
- Pain, suffering or mental anguish suffered by the survivor of the decedent
- Loss of companionship, care or protection
- Punitive damages, intended to punish wrongdoers and prevent them from harming others
It is important to understand that wrongful death pertains to the loss of life only. There may be a component of pain and suffering that precedes the loss of life. There may be "pre-impact terror" which means that you are aware that you are going to die. Pain and suffering is supported by extrinsic evidence from witnesses at the scene. For example, if a police officer reporting to an accident scene fails to find a pulse, it may be difficult to prove "conscious pain and suffering". If however, the officer writes in the report that the injured party was alive and in great pain you may be able to recover for "conscious pain and suffering. Unfortunately in some jurisdictions, if a child or infant dies, the value of the case is curtailed due to the fact that a child does not have any dependants, a child does not earn an income, and any future job or career is too speculative.
Another example would be medical malpractice that causes a person's death. The pain and suffering leading up to the death is measured in terms of medical malpractice damages. Those damages cease upon the death of the patient. Then, the death of the patient is analyzed in terms of dependants, marriage, children, future earnings, future benefits, etc.
How We Can Help
We begin by investigating the circumstances surrounding the passing of a loved one. We get reports from medical providers, police, emergency personnel and the medical examiner's records, reports and photos. We may need to retain an accident reconstruction expert, a forensic pathologist, or a doctor who specializes in emergency medicine. We will contact witnesses, obtain police investigation photos as well as review the findings in the autopsy report.
Our attorneys worked for major insurance companies as well as the City of New York before becoming plaintiff's lawyers. They know how insurance carriers and municipalities investigate, work up, negotiate and defend lawsuits. After approximately a decade of defense representation the attorneys began representing people who suffered serious injuries. They have been representing injured parties for more than 10 years.
A Sampling of Cases We Have Handled
A young boy died because he was trapped in his apartment. The landlord had screwed child guards into the windows of the fire escape with tamper proof screws.
A woman died when a truck drove on top of a vehicle driven by her boyfriend.
A man died 2 months after he had surgery. The doctor stapled the wrong end of his intestine and attached a colostomy to the other end. The colostomy did not function and they did not figure out their mistake for 2 weeks. He died 2 months later from massive infection.
A married father of 2 young children died when the truck he was a passenger in struck a DOT vehicle that was stopped in a moving lane of traffic on an expressway.
A woman went in for a colonoscopy and the doctor perforated her colon during the procedure. She called the doctor 3 days later with pain. She died from sepsis as a result of leakage into the abdominal cavity.
A man went in for hemorrhoid surgery and the doctor tied off the large intestine too tightly causing a rupture, sepsis and death.
A child was hit by a car while riding her bicycle. He sustained head injuries and died within minutes after the accident.
A young girl was burned by scalding water in her apartment. The water temperature was 158 degrees. She suffered 3rd degree burns on 20% of her body. She developed an infection while hospitalized that went untreated. Five days after she left the hospital she died from infection.
An online grief support group and services
Support for terminally ill and those grieving
AARP grief and loss resources
Help for children who have lost a parent
American College of Forensic Examiners
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Our firm represents clients located in Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, New York State and many other states (New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and California, and we will handle a case in any state provided we can do so in full compliance with court rules regarding multijurisdictional practice, association of local counsel and/or admission pro hac vice) who have lost loved ones as the result of the negligence of other parties.
If you or someone you know has lost a loved one, CONTACT US ONLINE OR CALL US AT (516) 742-8897= (516) PIATTYS in Long Island, (212) 267-9377= (212) ANSWERS In Manhattan TO SET UP A FREE CONSULTATION. If you can't come to us, we will come to you in the hospital or we will visit you in our mobile office.