Believe it or not, there is no inherent right in New York to sue for the wrongful death of a loved one. If, as the result of wrongdoing, such as negligence or medical malpractice, the deceased person endured conscious pain and suffering prior to death, for example, a long hospitalization, a lengthy apprehension of death or a severe incapacity, then the deceased person's estate would inherit the right to sue for that conscious pain and suffering, but not for wrongful death itself.
The right to sue for wrongful death is created by provisions of New York State's Estates, Powers and Trusts Law. That law provides that the heirs of a deceased person may recover "pecuniary" losses sustained by the wrongful loss of a loved one. Pecuniary loss means the stream of income and support lost to the heirs because of the death and the monetary value of the loss of services that would have been provided by the deceased person to the heirs had he or she survived.
The value of wrongful death claims can therefore vary greatly from one case to another and sometimes may seem unfair or illogical. For example, the death of a middle aged person who was contributing to the support of a spouse and children would likely be worth much more in wrongful death than the claim of a young, single person at the outset of their career, even though the young person is just starting out and has their entire career ahead of them. That is because the older person's heirs can plainly demonstrate the monetary support they have lost by reason of losing the loved one, whereas the young person was not contributing to the support of anyone but him or herself. For the same reason, the wrongful death claims of infants and children are usually worth less than those of adults.
Nevertheless, wrongful death cases as a rule have relatively large value and are often accompanied by personal injury claims for the conscious pain and suffering of the deceased person after the onset of the injury and prior to death. As with any claim, one has to be very careful of the time limits. For example, even though a lot of wrongful death cases result from medical malpractice, it is the two year limitation period for wrongful death cases that applies to the claim and not the two and one half year limitation period of medical malpractice claims. It is therefore vital that you consult with an attorney immediately even though the loss is recent and you are still grieving.
If you think that your loved one may have died as the result of negligence, medical or other professional malpractice or under any other wrongful or suspicious circumstances, then please call Mr. Altman right away for free consultation. Remember, there is no attorney fee for a wrongful death claim unless and until a recovery is made.
So please call right away!