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When do New York wrongful death damages start?

New York law provides for wrongful death awards for family members of a person killed by another person’s negligence or recklessness. Courts can award fair and just compensation covering the financial injuries related to the family member’s death.

These damages include the reasonable value of the decedent’s loss of earnings, loss of spousal services, and loss of parental support. New York families may also recover funeral and medical expenses.

Courts also award interest to this compensation accrued before the court issues its judgment. The damages and related interest start at the time the victim died.

This interest, according to New York’s highest court, is not a penalty against the defendant in a wrongful death case. The New York Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that interest compensates plaintiffs for money that they were entitled and could not use before a verdict was issued in their favor. Allowing a defendant to keep using the money without any cost until a verdict is rendered would constitute a windfall, according to the Court.

Nonetheless, damages have to be calculated or discounted to the cost of losses accrued by the surviving members at the time of the death and should not not calculated from their value at the time the court’s verdict was rendered. The New York’s Court of Appeals ruled, accordingly, that post-verdict interest cannot be awarded to post verdict losses, if this award of compensation was not discounted to the time of the decedent’s death before the award.

Juries, however, are instructed to award a full amount of future damages without reducing the amount to present value. The trial court calculates the discounted amount. Awards in medical malpractice cases, on the other hand, are awarded as a lump sum without this structuring under New York law.

Determining liability for the loss of a loved one and just and fair compensation may be a difficult legal and factual undertaking. Legal assistance can help assure that families have the opportunity to collect these damages after a fatal accident.

Source: Law.Justia.com, “Toledo v. Christo, 2012 Slip. Op. 0089 (Ny Ct. of Appeals, Jan. 10, 2012),” assessed on April 15, 2015