Is Wrongful Death a Personal Injury

Is wrongful death a personal injury in New York?

The answer to this question has important implications for plaintiffs seeking compensation for the untimely loss of a loved one. While wrongful death cases do indeed fall under the umbrella of personal injury law, there are important distinctions you need to be aware of if you’re pursuing this type of litigation.

We break these down in detail in this post.

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

Personal injury law allows an injured person to go to civil court and apply for financial compensation for all losses stemming from an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. This system is designed to place you, the injured party, in the position you would have been in had it not been for your accident.

Personal injury cases can vary widely, encompassing situations like car accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and product liability, among others. Each type of case carries its own specific set of legal rules and standards.

Is Wrongful Death a Personal Injury in New York?

Yes, wrongful death is a personal injury. In fact, for a wrongful death to occur, New York law requires that, had the deceased person survived, he or she should have been able to pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault party because of their actions.

However, wrongful death differs from other types of personal injuries in many important respects.

What Is the Difference Between Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

The key distinctions between wrongful death lawsuits and other personal injury cases are:

  • Statute of limitations: For personal injury cases in New York, the standard statute of limitations is generally three years from the date of the accident. For wrongful death cases, New York law dictates a statute of limitations of two years from the date of death.
  • Nature of damages: Personal injury claims often seek to compensate injured parties for the pain and suffering they endured as a direct result of the incident in question. Wrongful death claims focus on compensating survivors for losses related to someone’s death, such as lost household earnings and funeral expenses.
  • Beneficiaries: In personal injury lawsuits, plaintiffs usually file on their own behalf. In wrongful death cases, family members of the deceased person are allowed to file and benefit from lawsuits (though this is limited to parents, children, and spouses). The personal representative of a deceased person’s estate may also file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate.
  • Pecuniary losses: New York law focuses on “pecuniary injuries” in wrongful death claims. These are the financial losses that next of kin suffer as a result of their relative’s death, such as funeral expenses, medical expenses, and lost household income. Many other states allow wrongful death plaintiffs to seek noneconomic damages (also known as general damages) in wrongful death lawsuits; these might include loss of companionship, grief, or loss of consortium. In New York, however, you cannot recover most types of noneconomic damages, although you may be entitled to compensation the deceased person suffered prior to their death, as a result of the accident.

Suing for Wrongful Death in New York

In New York, a wrongful death claim can be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. While this often includes immediate family members like a surviving spouse, children, or parents, it can also be a person appointed by the court if no immediate family exists.

The first step in the process is to schedule a consultation with a wrongful death lawyer. An attorney will be able to determine whether it’s a good idea for you to file a lawsuit and roughly how much money in damages you might be able to expect.

Depending on individual circumstances, wrongful death cases can be highly valuable in terms of monetary awards. This is good news for you as a plaintiff, as it means you’ll be properly compensated for the losses your loved one’s death has caused you. However, it also means defendants (which are often insurance companies with teams of high-powered lawyers) will fight tooth-and-nail to minimize their liability in relation to your case.

If you’re going to enter a battle like this, you need to hire a wrongful death attorney with the expertise, dedication, and attention to detail required to emerge with a satisfactory result.

Are Punitive Damages Available in New York Wrongful Death Cases?

Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants and deter similar behavior by others in the future. This is different from other types of damages (which are generally classified as compensatory damages), as the primary aim is punishment, not to compensate a plaintiff for losses they have suffered.

New York law sets a high bar when it comes to punitive damages; most wrongful death cases only allow for compensatory damages. However, in certain exceptional circumstances, where the defendant’s actions were especially malicious, reckless, or grossly negligent, New York courts may consider them.

Though punitive damages are not awarded in every case, New York law does not impose a cap on awards. This means they can be very substantial when courts do hand them out. Your attorney will be able to explain whether the wrongdoing in your case was sufficiently egregious to potentially give rise to punitive damages.

Punitive damages are only available in cases that go to court. However, opposing counsel may be inclined to offer a more generous settlement if they believe a judge might consider awarding punitive damages at trial.

Getting the Help You Need Following a Wrongful Death in New York

Coming to terms with the fact that someone close to you is no longer around because of another person’s carelessness is incredibly difficult. If you’re in this position, a wrongful death lawsuit may help you to secure justice and get your life back on track.

Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation. We’ll be able to advise you on whether or not you should file a lawsuit; if you don’t, we won’t charge you anything. You can reach us via our webform or over the phone at (516) 399-2364.

john tucker

Managing Attorney John. J. Tucker, Esq.

John has personally handled thousands of clients who were victims of another’s negligence and fights relentlessly for their rights. John enjoys bringing closure to a client’s matter so that the injured party can move forward with their life. His background enables him to evaluate complex liability related claims and bring resolution to claims in a record time frame. [ Attorney Bio ]

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