When you lose a loved one due to someone else's negligence or wrongful act in the Bronx, you may qualify to receive financial compensation from those responsible. The damages you recover could help you with things such as funeral and burial costs, final medical expenses, and even the financial support your family member provided. You may also recover damages to cover the love and affection your loved one provided you.
If the death occurred because of a tragic accident or intentional misconduct, you also want justice for your loss. You need to feel that the person or business that caused your loved one's death paid for their actions. One way you can seek monetary compensation for a tragic loss is to file a wrongful death claim or wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party. However, you will need a Bronx wrongful death lawyer for help.
The Bronx wrongful death lawyers at the Ivan Diamond, Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer will fight for you and your loved one. To discuss your loved one’s accident and who might have caused it, contact our wrongful death lawyers for a free case evaluation.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death refers to any preventable death that happened due to the actions of others. A person or business that caused a fatal injury might bear legal liability for wrongful death.
Under common law, a person's legal claims would die with them. This unfairness led to a contradictory situation where someone could get sued for causing an injury but not a death. Anyone who knew the law knew that the best way to escape civil liability was to ensure the victim died.
To remedy this injustice, states like New York passed wrongful death laws to allow certain surviving family members to seek financial compensation through wrongful death claims. Under this type of claim, the victim's estate or survivors (depending on the state) may file a claim for wrongful death against the person or business responsible for the victim's death.
Causes of Wrongful Death in the Bronx
Unintentional deaths happen often. Between 5,000 and 6,000 New Yorkers die every year from unintentional injuries. These statistics give a rate of about 34 unintentional injury deaths per 100,000 New York residents. Across the U.S., about 200,000 people die from unintentional injuries every year.
Medical Malpractice: Negligence by healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, or hospitals, that lead to a patient's death constitutes medical malpractice. This can include misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication mistakes, or inadequate patient care.
Motor Vehicle Accidents: Fatalities resulting from car accidents caused by reckless driving, drunk driving, distracted driving, or other forms of negligence on the road. Truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents also cause hundreds of preventable deaths each year.
Workplace Accidents: Fatalities that occur on the job due to unsafe working conditions, lack of proper safety measures, or employer negligence.
Product Liability: Deaths caused by defective products or products with inadequate warnings or instructions. This can include pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or consumer goods.
Criminal Acts: Homicide or deaths resulting from criminal acts, such as assault, murder, or other intentional wrongdoing.
Dangerous Premises: Fatalities that occur on another person's property due to unsafe conditions, inadequate security, or the property owner's negligence. Slip and fall accidents can prove fatal, and they fall under the premises liability area of personal injury law.
Aviation Accidents: Fatalities resulting from airplane or helicopter accidents due to pilot error, mechanical failure, or other factors.
Construction Accidents: Deaths that occur on construction sites due to unsafe working conditions, lack of proper safety protocols, or construction company negligence.
Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect: Wrongful deaths in nursing homes or assisted living facilities due to elder abuse, neglect, or inadequate care.
Defective Medical Devices: Deaths caused by the use of faulty medical devices or implants.
Proving wrongful death often requires establishing that the defendant's actions or negligence directly caused the death and that surviving family members have suffered damages as a result. Family members, such as spouses, children, or parents, may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for their losses.
If you believe a loved one's death was wrongful and resulted from someone else's actions or negligence, it's important to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney. They can assess the circumstances, determine liability, and guide you through the legal process to seek justice and compensation for your family's losses.
Parties Liable for Wrongful Deaths
As you read through the examples of causes of preventable deaths, you may have thought about the parties that could be held responsible for them.
People bear responsibility for their acts and omissions. Whether the actions were intentional, like a bar fight that got out of hand, or negligent, like a distracted driving accident, liability usually falls on the person who caused the harm.
Thus, a negligent driver who runs a red light and crashes into a motorcyclist bears liability for the motorcyclist’s death.
But sometimes, a party might bear liability for another’s actions. A dog owner bears liability for injuries caused by dog attacks. Parents might be liable for harm caused by their children.
And most importantly, businesses can bear responsibility for the actions of their employees. If an employee kills someone in the course and scope of their employment, the employee will usually not face liability. Instead, the employer may be held liable for the resulting death.
For example, a defective product could reach the marketplace and kill the product’s users. An amusement park could skimp on maintenance, and the resulting accident could cause multiple deaths. A pedestrian could get crushed by an unsecured load on a semi-truck that breaks loose.
All of these deaths resulted from an employee’s error. But rather than suing the employee, the victim’s family will likely go after the employer using a legal principle called vicarious liability. In this case, the employer is vicariously liable for the employee’s actions.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
Any action that could trigger a personal injury claim can also cause a wrongful death claim if the victim dies. You can think of the wrongful death statute as carrying forward a personal injury claim that would have otherwise expired with the victim’s death.
As a result, New York’s wrongful death statute requires you to have a legal theory that explains why you blame the other party for your loved one’s loss.
Some examples of personal injury claims that could become wrongful death claims include:
Most wrongful death claims fall under negligence. Negligence happens when someone breaches a duty of care owed to the deceased person.
Some claims where you might allege negligence include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home negligence
- Slip and fall accidents
- Premises liability
If all of these types of accidents, you must prove four elements to win your wrongful death case:
- Duty of care to the deceased person
- Breach of the duty of care
- A causal link between the breach and the damages
The most common example of negligence happens in a traffic accident. All drivers have a legal duty to drive with reasonable care. When drivers violate traffic laws or customs, they violate that duty.
When that violation causes a collision, you can sue for the resulting damages. Under New York’s wrongful death laws, those damages include the losses resulting from your loved one’s death in a traffic accident.
Intentional acts that result in a fatality can also support a wrongful death lawsuit. Intentional acts that cause deaths can also trigger criminal charges.
But a wrongful death claim differs from homicide charges in a few ways:
- The government brings homicide charges, but the deceased person’s executor brings a wrongful death lawsuit
- Homicide charges can result in imprisonment, while wrongful death lawsuits can result in monetary damages
- To win a homicide case, prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt
- To win a wrongful death lawsuit, a wrongful death attorney only needs to persuade a jury by a preponderance of the evidence
The last point is important. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” means that a jury must be reasonably certain that the criminal defendant committed the homicide for a conviction. “A preponderance of the evidence” means that a jury only needs to believe it is more likely than not that the civil defendant caused the death.
If you want to think of it in terms of percentages, a jury must be 100 percent certain for a criminal conviction but only 51 percent certain for a civil verdict. This difference explains why some high-profile deaths resulted in a criminal acquittal in a murder trial but a damage award in a later wrongful death lawsuit.
Criminal acts that can provide the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Vehicular homicide
- Terrorist acts
To win a wrongful death lawsuit resulting from a criminal act, you need to prove that the at-fault party intended to cause harmful contact with the deceased person. The intent for a wrongful death case does not require the intent to cause the death. Instead, you only need to prove their intent to perform the action that resulted in death.
Thus, if the other party got upset at your loved one and threw a rock at them, it does not matter if they meant to scare them, injure them, or kill them. Proving they meant to throw the rock at the victim will probably be enough.
In negligence, you must show the negligent party knew or should have known their actions breached their duty of care. For intentional acts, you must prove the other party’s intentions.
Strict liability means that you do not need to prove the other party’s knowledge or intent. This means you only need to prove the existence of the harm and a causal link between the harm and your loved one’s death.
The most important type of case that uses strict liability is product liability. When your loved one was killed by a dangerously defective product, your wrongful death attorney will need to prove the product contained a defect and that the defect caused the death.
Products can have three types of defects:
- Design defects render the product unsafe for all uses
- Manufacturing defects render an otherwise safe product dangerous as it was made
- Warning defects fail to warn of dangers or explain how to use a product safely
Some examples of defective products that can cause death include:
- Toxic substances like asbestos
- Tires that suffer tread separation
- Automobile airbag inflators that explode
- Dangerous drugs
- Defective medical devices
All of these dangerous products have killed New York residents and have been the subject of wrongful death lawsuits.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Under New York law, the deceased person’s personal representative, also called an executor, files a wrongful death lawsuit. The deceased person’s will names the personal representative; a probate judge can also appoint them.
The personal representative acts on behalf of the estate and the survivors. They hire a wrongful death lawyer. They also make the decisions that affect the course of the lawsuit, including whether to settle the case.
At the end of the case, the survivors divide the settlement or damage award. New York’s legislature recently amended its wrongful death laws, but New York’s governor has not yet signed it.
If the governor signs the bill, the survivors eligible for a share of wrongful death proceeds will include:
- Spouse or domestic partner
- Other close family members
The amendment expands the relatives who are entitled to receive a share of the damages but still requires that they have a family or domestic relationship with the deceased person. In other words, friends without a domestic or familial relationship cannot claim a share of the damages.
The probate court decides how the compensation from a wrongful death case gets distributed. Under New York law, the court first reimburses relatives and the estate for any amounts they paid for medical care and funeral expenses. The remaining amount gets divided among the family members based on the losses they suffered due to the death.
Damages Recoverable for a Wrongful Death
New York law currently allows a wrongful death lawyer to seek only pecuniary damages. These damages account for only the monetary losses suffered due to the victim’s death.
Examples of pecuniary damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost income
- Cost of replacement household services
As stated, the New York legislature recently introduced an amended bill to expand the damages a wrongful death attorney can seek in a case. If the governor signs the amendment, the personal representative can seek both pecuniary and emotional damages in a lawsuit.
The amendment to the statute provides a list of the damages available after the amendment goes into effect:
- Reasonable funeral expenses incurred by the family
- Reasonable medical care expenses for the injury that caused the death
- Loss of services, support, and assistance
- Diminishment of inheritance
- Grief or anguish caused by the death
- Loss of love, society, companionship, comfort, protection, and consortium
- Loss of education, training, guidance, counsel, nurture, and advice
These categories of damages allowed in Bronx wrongful death cases cover many of the financial and emotional losses you might experience after losing a loved one. With the amendment, a wrongful death attorney can present to a jury both financial records and your testimony about your relationship to get a fair and just damage award.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in the Bronx?
In the Bronx and the rest of New York, you typically have two years from the date of your family member's death to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. Failing to meet this deadline may result in losing your right to pursue legal action.
Here are key considerations you must keep in mind for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in the Bronx:
- Discovery Rule: In some cases, the statute of limitations may be extended if the cause of death was not immediately apparent or if the wrongful act was not immediately discoverable. The clock may start running from the date the cause of death was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.
- Government Entities: If the wrongful death involves a claim against a government entity, such as a municipal agency, there may be specific notice requirements and shorter timeframes. It's important to consult with an attorney to understand these nuances.
- Minors: If the wrongful death victim was a minor at the time of the incident, the statute of limitations may be extended, allowing the lawsuit to be filed within two years of the victim reaching the age of majority.
Given the importance of adhering to the statute of limitations, it is crucial to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. An attorney from the Ivan Diamond, Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer can assess the specific details of your case, determine the applicable deadlines, and guide you through the legal process.
Hiring a Bronx Wrongful Death Lawyer
A wrongful death lawyer provides important legal advice during an emotional time. To win a wrongful death case, you need to prove that those responsible for your loved one’s death bear legal liability for the resulting damages. An experienced attorney knows the law and how to gather the evidence you need to prove your case.
To discuss your loved one’s death and the legal rights you have to pursue compensation from those who caused it, contact the Ivan Diamond, Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer at (718) 588-2000 for a free consultation with a Bronx personal injury lawyer.
Client Review: 5/5
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“My first time in need for legal help and it was a great experience. Diamond was professional and straightforward. He worked hard to get a great outcome. Also, his assistant Serena was always helpful.”
Review by: Tia K.