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Can I Sue for Wrongful Death in New York?

New York law gives victims the right to pursue a claim for compensation if they are injured due to negligence or wrongdoing.If a person is killed, however, he or she obviously cannot pursue legal action against whoever was responsible for the fatality.Negligent drivers, irresponsible property owners and others who are responsible for accidents should not escape liability for their actions simply because the victim of their behavior is killed.Wrongful death laws exist to ensure that surviving family members may pursue a claim for damages on behalf of the person who perished.

New York establishes the right of surviving family members to pursue wrongful death claims in the New York Estates, Powers & Trusts Law.Under section 5-4.1 of this law, a “personal representative… may maintain an action to recover damages for a wrongful act, negligent or default which caused the decedent’s death against a person who would have been liable to the decedent by reason of wrongful conduct if the death had not ensued.”This legal language means that you can sue for wrongful death if you are the designated family member or person in charge of the estate of someone who was killed.

New York’s wrongful death statute determines who can sue for wrongful death depending upon the family relationship.Spouses and minor children are given first priority to obtain compensation in wrongful death claims.Parents and siblings may also take legal action to get monetary damages if the victim was underage or unmarried.

Being a close family member is not the only requirement to make a wrongful death case. You also must prove that the victim who was killed would have had a personal injury claim if he or she had lived.This usually means proving:

  • That the defendant you are taking legal action against owed a duty to the victim
  • That the defendant breached that legal duty or failed to live up to obligations
  • That the victim was killed as a direct result of the failure of the defendant to do what he or she was supposed to
  • That actual damages or losses occurred as a result of the defendant’s breach: Actual damages can include medical bills prior to the death, as well as loss of the deceased’s income.

Individuals and companies have legal duties or obligations and can be held liable if they fail to live up to them. For example, product manufacturers have a duty not to release dangerous products for sale.If they do, they can be held responsible and sued, regardless of negligence.Drivers of cars, on the other hand, have a duty to obey all state and federal road safety laws and to exercise reasonable care.To make a wrongful death claim after a car accident, you’ll thus need to prove that the driver broke the safety rules and/or was unreasonably careless compared to what a normal person would do.

Because there are many ways you can prove a wrongful death claim, you should speak with an attorney both to understand if you can sue and to help you make your case.


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