Did you lose a loved one in a preventable accident or incident caused by someone else’s bad decisions or wrongful actions? If so, then you or another member of your family may have the right to seek significant compensation as damages for your loved one’s death through a lawsuit called a wrongful death action. Money will not take away your pain, but it can offer considerable financial relief during this difficult time.
The law allows families a fixed period of time—known as the statute of limitations—to take legal action after a loved one’s death. Read on to learn more about when to file your claim from our experienced Bronx wrongful death lawyer.
Overview of the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
The statute of limitations is an actual statute, or law, that establishes the maximum period of time a person can wait after suffering an injury or loss before filing a lawsuit for damages. For a wrongful death claim, the time period generally begins running on the date of your loved one’s death (even if the accident that caused injuries resulting in your loved one’s death happened earlier). At the expiration of this time period, you lose the right to file a lawsuit for damages.
The purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure that courts deal with reasonable speed on legal claims with recent evidence. In that sense, the statute of limitations is an expiration date, not a target date. With the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer, grieving families can, and often do, file wrongful death lawsuits long before the expiration of limitations period.
The New York Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
In New York, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death statute is two years from the date of death, in most cases. However, the law may extend or shorten that time period based on a wide variety of factors.
- A wrongful death claim against a government entity may have to begin within a matter of months after your loved one’s death, because of special rules that apply to making claims against the government;
- You may have an extended period to file a wrongful death lawsuit if you did not discover the true cause of your loved one’s death, and you could not reasonably have discovered it, within the normal two-year period;
- You may have an extended period to file a wrongful death action if your loved one’s death resulted from a criminal act that led to the prosecution of the person responsible for the death.
- Your loved one’s estate may have the right to file a parallel lawsuit, known as a survival action, which seeks damages for your loved one’s personal injuries before death, for a period of up to three years after the death in some cases.
In light of these exceptions and potential complexities, family members of a person who died as a result of someone else’s wrongful decisions or actions should seek legal advice from an experienced wrongful death injury lawyer as soon as possible. Waiting to speak with an attorney could put the family’s valuable legal rights at risk.
Other Time-Related Considerations
Families of persons who tragically died in preventable accidents and incidents find their lives turned upside down not just by a sudden, unexpected loss, but also by the avalanche of complicated, detailed tasks that follow. Some of those tasks, too, come with deadlines assigned to them that, if a family misses them, can affect the family’s legal rights.
A skilled wrongful death attorney can help families tackle those tasks and meet those deadlines.
Depending upon the facts and circumstances of the death, the attorney may:
- Assist in filing a workers’ compensation fatality claim for death benefits. Workers’ compensation insurance, paid for by employers, covers virtually all New York workers. In the event a worker dies due to a work-related injury or illness, the worker’s family has the right to receive death benefits that pay for funeral and burial expenses, and that replace some of the deceased worker’s weekly income. Eligible survivors of the deceased worker must file a workers’ compensation fatality claim within two years of the death to receive benefits. However, many families need those benefits far sooner.
- Ensure other insurance companies pay death benefits. Many New Yorkers carry private (non-workers’ compensation) life insurance. To obtain insurance benefits, beneficiaries must file a claim within a time period outlined in the insurance policy. Ideally, an insurance company will pay benefits immediately. However, sometimes insurance companies push back against valid claims, making an already-difficult situation for families even worse. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can explore legal action to force life insurance companies to pay the benefits they promised.
- Investigate legal liability for a wrongful death. In some cases, it is obvious who bears legal responsibility for causing a wrongful death. In many others, however, it takes a diligent investigation of the circumstances of a tragic death to determine whose poor decisions or actions resulted in tragedy. An experienced wrongful death attorney has the resources and know-how to investigate before the statute of limitations expires to identify all parties who should pay damages to a grieving family.
For Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyers, the Statute of Limitations Is Priority Number One
A sudden, tragic death takes a heavy toll on family members of the deceased. In the chaotic aftermath of a loved one dying, it does not occur to many people to hire a wrongful death lawyer. However, the fact is that seeking the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney can constitute one of the smartest steps a family can take to protect their financial and legal rights, before the statute of limitations expires on them.
If you lost a loved one in an accident or incident caused by someone else’s wrongful decisions or actions, then do not wait to get the legal help you need. Contact an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as you can for a free consultation.