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Seeking damages for the loss of a loved one

Negligence or misconduct leading to the tragic death of a family member is not limited to a specific location. This catastrophe can take place on a highway, workplace, amusement park, athletic field or even in a hospital. While the law cannot come anywhere near filling the loss of a family member, it has remedies to provide compensation to lessen the financial losses that are suffered from a fatal accident.

A representative of the deceased person’s estate may file a wrongful death action on behalf of the immediate family members or other heirs. It is important for loved ones to act quickly after these accidents to assure that the right to compensation is not lost. New York generally has a 2-year statute of limitations restricting the time that a wrongful death action may be filed. These cases often follow any criminal prosecution of the party responsible for the injury so long as the wrongful death action is filed within the statute of limitations.

The distributees may seek damages for pecuniary or financial injury such as the loss of support, prospective loss of inheritance, income and medical and funeral expenses. When awarding damages, numerous factors are considered such as the decedent’s age, character, income potential, life expectancy and the particular circumstances of the distributees. The number of dependents and the decedent’s spending habits may also be factors.

Damages may also be recovered in a survival action where the underlying personal injury action is prosecuted. In addition to compensation for the personal injury, damages may be awarded for conscious pain and suffering experienced by the decedent.

A wrongful death action includes medical malpractice that led to death, a car or airplane accident, another person’s crime, exposure to hazardous conditions or substances at work, or death during a supervised activity such as school athletics. Proving a wrongful death case, negotiating a settlement or going to court may be complex and require experts in these types of circumstances. Prompt legal advice in these cases can help assure that family members’ rights are protected and just damages are awarded.

Source: FindLaw, “Wrongful death overview,” Retrieved Sept. 1, 2014