Losing a loved one in an accident can be emotionally and financially trying for family members, especially if the negligence or recklessness of another caused the fatal incident. Fortunately, families of those killed due to someone else's negligence or misconduct can hold this person accountable through a wrongful death lawsuit.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawsuits allow the immediate family of someone killed in an accident to be compensated for the monetary injury they have suffered as a result of the loss of their loved one. In order to be held accountable for someone's wrongful death, an individual, company or other entity must have acted negligently or intended to do harm to the fatally injured individual.

To be eligible to claim wrongful death, family members must prove their loved one's demise was caused by the negligence or misconduct of the accused party and that they are suffering a financial injury due to the decedent's death. Since wrongful death lawsuits are brought in the name of the decedent's estate, not the names of family members, a personal representative of the estate must also be present.

What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Courts may award immediate family members compensation for loss of financial support and services, loss of future inheritance and funeral expenses. Additionally, courts may also allow the estate of the deceased to recover damages for his or her medical expenses, pain and suffering prior to death. This award can then be distributed to beneficiaries through the estate.

What Types of Incidents Cause Wrongful Deaths?

Many types of incidents may cause someone's wrongful death. All of them involve the negligence or willful misconduct of an individual, company or other entity. Fatal motor vehicle accidents in which the at-fault driver was negligent or reckless in some manner, such as running a red light or driving while intoxicated, cause wrongful deaths. Likewise, doctors who make fatal medical mistakes may also be held responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Other examples of incidents that involve a wrongful death is exposure to hazards at work or other work accidents, criminal acts and a fatal accident that occurs during a supervised activity, like a school sporting event.

How Does New York Determine Who May Recover Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In New York, the personal representative of the estate of a lost loved one can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. Damages can be awarded to immediate family members, who include surviving spouses, children or the deceased's parents if no spouse, children or grandchildren are present.

The law gives priority to the surviving spouse and children, who may receive all or part of the award depending on the circumstance. If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, his or her parents are eligible to receive the whole award. Lastly, the brothers and sisters of the deceased may be eligible to receive the whole award if no spouse, children or parents are present.

If you and your family have lost a loved one in an incident caused by a negligent party, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can guide you through filing a wrongful death claim and help you recover any compensation to which you may be entitled.