Long Island Wrongful Death Lawyers Helping You Seek Compensation
Accidents happen every day, and most of them only result in mild to moderate injury. Unfortunately, there are times when these accidents are serious enough that they end up causing someone to lose their life. This is a devastating situation for those who are left behind, and New York provides the ability to pursue a wrongful death claim if that fatal accident was caused by someone’s negligent behavior.
Wrongful death cases can be very emotional, and it can be difficult for family members to navigate the court system in the middle of the grieving process. This is why it’s important to have a personal representative, such as a wrongful death lawyer, who can take over the logistics of the case and help you get the compensation you may be entitled to.
If someone you love has died in an accident and you are considering filing a wrongful death claim, let our law firm help. We have a proven track record in handling wrongful death cases and are prepared to fight for you to the best of our abilities. To schedule a free consultation and speak to a member of our team, contact our office today or send us an email.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is when the family members of someone who was killed, file a lawsuit against the person or entity that was responsible for the death. The person responsible has to have caused the death either willfully, which means they knew their actions would result in the death or the high probability of death, or through negligence.
A wrongful death case gives the family members the chance to hold the liable party legally responsible and get some financial compensation. While any money awarded doesn’t offset the family’s grief, it can help with providing for dependents left behind and can deter the person or company from continuing on and potentially causing other deaths.
What’s the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Murder?
Whether a situation qualifies for a wrongful death lawsuit or murder charges is a common question for family members considering this type of litigation. And the answer is that it mainly comes down to intent. In a murder case, the person has to have intended to kill the person, and it has to be premeditated. The prosecution must also be able to establish that the person charged committed the murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
Wrongful death cases are different in that the death is often caused by negligence. This means that the person may not have planned or intended for the other party to die, but they didn’t exercise a reasonable amount of care and attention. The burden of proof is also different for wrongful death cases. Instead of beyond a reasonable doubt, it is a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the plaintiff just has to get the jury to believe that there is a 51% chance or higher that the defendant’s actions – or lack thereof – contributed to the person’s death.
What Are Some Examples of Wrongful Death Cases?
Wrongful death lawsuits can arise from a variety of situations. Any time there is a death that is the fault of another party and was caused by negligence, there is the possibility of wrongful death claims. Wrongful death lawsuits may arise from many of the same scenarios that would result in a personal injury case if the person had been injured rather than killed. Here are some common examples:
- Medical malpractice, including misdiagnosis
- Car or truck accidents
- Bicycle crashes
- Pedestrian accidents
- Accidents in the workplace
- Product liability, where a defective product caused the death
When you are pursuing a wrongful death case, your attorney acts as your personal representative to ensure that you have an experienced guide through the civil court system. Before you file your claim, talk with a member of our team to find out what kind of case you have, what your options are moving forward, and what kind of compensation you may be able to get.
Is a Wrongful Death Claim a Civil or Criminal Case?
A wrongful death claim is filed in the New York civil courts, so it is a civil matter. If there are murder or manslaughter charges related to the incident, these would be handled in the criminal courts. However, it is possible, under the wrongful death law in New York, to pursue a wrongful death case even if the person has been found not guilty of murder in the criminal courts.
Because the burden of proof is different for a murder case than it is for a wrongful death case, it’s very possible to win a wrongful death claim even if the related murder case returned a not guilty verdict. This is a strategy some family members use to hold the party liable, even if there wasn’t enough evidence to prove a murder case.
However, it’s important to understand what is involved in a wrongful death claim, as it is categorically different in content and process than a murder case. Talking with a wrongful death attorney can ensure you understand what happens in a wrongful death case and what your options are if there’s already been a criminal trial.
How Do I Know If I Have a Wrongful Death Claim?
If someone you love was killed and it was someone else’s fault, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. But it’s not always this simple. There are some specific criteria that need to be addressed to be able to file a lawsuit. Any time you are considering filing a legal claim, your first step should be to talk with an attorney who has experience with these types of cases.
A wrongful death attorney will go through the facts of your case and review the details, including the actions before, during, and after the fatal accident. The attorney can then advise you whether they think you have a case that could be pursued through the civil court system and what that would look like.
What Do I Need to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?
To prove a wrongful death claim, you need to be able to convince a jury that there is a more than 50% chance that the defendant was responsible for the person’s death. This is formally known as the burden of proof called the “preponderance of the evidence.” It’s a legal term that basically means that the person is more likely to have caused the death than to not have caused it.
For example, if you were bringing a wrongful death case against a surgeon for medical malpractice because they left surgical equipment inside the patient and then they got an infection and died, you would need to prove that the death was, in fact, because of the materials left behind and not a possible normal outcome of the surgery.
Some of these cases can get complex, which is why it’s important to have an attorney who can represent you throughout the case. Our team has experience handling wrongful death lawsuits, and we know how to put together and present a strong case.
How Long Does a Wrongful Death Suit Take?
When you are considering a wrongful death lawsuit, something to keep in mind is the expected timeline for the case to be resolved. Because of its complexity, a wrongful death case can take a couple of years, on average, from start to finish. Cases, where both parties are able to agree to a settlement, will obviously be handled much faster than those that have to go through the whole trial process, but it’s important to understand that the time frames for these types of cases can be longer than you expect.
If you’re concerned about how much time it could take to go through a trial and you are considering settling the case out of court, make sure to talk to an attorney first. Taking the first settlement offered by the insurance company may get you money faster, but it may mean getting much less than you could have gotten with a trial.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In the state of New York, the statute of limitations on wrongful death cases is the same as it is for personal injury cases: two years. This means that you only have two years from the date of the fatality to file a claim. This is one reason why it’s so important to talk with an attorney as soon as you think you may have a case so that you can get everything rolling and the paperwork filed on time.
Is It Possible to Settle a Wrongful Death Case Out of Court?
You may wonder if it’s possible to agree to a settlement after you file a wrongful death claim, and the answer is yes. It’s not uncommon for the defendant to offer a settlement instead of going forward with a full trial. A settlement offer helps them keep the number of damages paid out semi-controlled, and it avoids the uncertainty and stress that comes with a long trial.
However, wrongful death settlements are not always advisable. Insurance companies like to offer lowball settlements as a way to speed up the trial process and avoid paying more money. And while that “guaranteed” money can be tempting, it’s probably far less than you could get if you went forward with the case and won.
We advise our clients to seek counsel from a knowledgeable attorney who has experience handling wrongful death cases before agreeing to a settlement to ensure they understand the pros and cons and whether it’s really in their best interests.
What Compensation Is Possible in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When you file a wrongful death lawsuit, one of the most important parts is determining what kind of compensation you are going to ask the courts to award you if you win. With wrongful death claims, there are a few different categories that factor into how compensation is calculated.
First, there are immediate damages, such as the medical bills associated with the actual accident itself. This may also include loss of wages from the time off work if the person didn’t die immediately as a result of the accident. This category usually includes any kind of monetary damages that were involved from the time of the accident to the person’s actual death. In some cases, this will be a very short period of time, but in others, it could be weeks or even months and could be quite substantial when it comes to monetary value.
Because a wrongful death case hinges on the fact that the negligent actions caused someone’s death, there are also damages that relate to the loss of what could have been if the person had survived. For example, the family may be sued for compensation based on the deceased’s potential income that would have supported the family had they survived.
The state of New York also allows legal spouses to sue for loss of consortium in a wrongful death case. This is sometimes also called loss of companionship. It is asking the courts for a financial award based on the loss of the partner, which includes their companionship, emotional and psychological support, ability to have children, etc.
How Can a Wrongful Death Lawyer Help Me?
In the months and weeks after you lose a loved one, it can be hard to get through normal life, let alone navigate a complex legal case, and a wrongful death attorney can help by taking responsibility for the case. While you will need to provide your attorney with all of the information and documents you have and be prepared to answer questions, all of the legwork, such as tracking down witnesses and compiling evidence, is left to the law firm. An attorney can also help you understand each step of the trial process and review and provide counsel on any settlement offers the other side sends your way.
MontanaroLaw P.C. Long Island Wrongful Death Lawyer
At MontanaroLaw P.C., we know what it takes to litigate wrongful death cases, and we’re prepared to be your personal representative throughout the entire court process — from start to finish. We understand that this is a very difficult time, and that’s why we’re dedicated to taking the burden of pursuing a lawsuit off of your shoulders so you can focus on the grieving process and remembering your loved one.
If you’re considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit in New York, contact our office to schedule a free consultation and get more information about the process and how we can make it easier for you. We serve clients through the greater New York City area, including Long Island and Massapequa. Call (516) 203-1700 to talk with a member of our team and get your case moving forward.