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Navigating New York’s Comparative Negligence in Wrongful Death Claims
When the unexpected, heartbreaking loss of a loved one in death happens in your family, you expect the law to be on your side – perhaps especially when it was caused by someone else’s devastatingly negligent or reckless behavior. However, in such cases, the degree of fault the victim may have shared in what occurred will have an impact on the amount of compensation you may receive.
If your family member lost his or her life in such an incident, you have the right to pursue financial compensation for your loss from the responsible party. Understandably, as a grieving family, pursuing legal action may be the last thing on your mind, but a settlement obtained by means of a wrongful death lawsuit can enable you to regain your balance after losing someone close to you.
New York wrongful death negligence laws can seem both confusing and complex. The experienced wrongful death attorneys at the New York law firm of Hill & Moin, though, know the ins and outs of such claims. Thus, we are able to clarify your legal rights and guide you through the wrongful death claims process – take our insight on how New York negligence laws impact wrongful death claims below, for instance.
What Constitutes Wrongful Death in New York?
New York state law defines wrongful death as a death resulting from an individual’s negligence or intentional wrongful act.
In a personal injury case, accident victims have the legal right to file a personal injury claim and recover financial compensation for their damages. In like manner, certain surviving family members can pursue a wrongful death claim when an accident proves fatal for their loved one.
Wrongful death lawsuits allow families to get money back for costs related to the death. In a successful wrongful death case, the responsible party will be held accountable, and financial restitution will be made to those left behind.
Proving Negligence in a New York Wrongful Death Claim
To prevail in a wrongful death claim, the circumstances of the accident must be analyzed, and the at-fault party identified.
Negligence in a wrongful death case generally involves these 4 elements:
- The defendant owed the deceased a duty of care. Everyone has a legal obligation or duty to act with reasonable care so as not to injure others.
- The defendant breached this duty of care. Either by negligence or an intentional act, the defendant failed to uphold his or her legal duty.
- The defendant’s breach of care resulted in the victim’s death. If it were not for the defendant’s actions or failure to act, the victim would not have died.
- The victim’s death resulted in actual damages. Surviving family members sustained financial loss as a result of losing their loved one.
Establishing fault and negligence in a wrongful death claim is not always a straightforward process. In some cases, the fault may be attributed to multiple people or parties.
A well-practiced wrongful death attorney is able to assess the facts of your case and then advise you on how to move forward with your legal claim.
Understanding New York’s Comparative Negligence Law in Wrongful Death Cases
New York follows the comparative negligence rule when it comes to personal injury law. That same rule applies to wrongful death cases.
The comparative negligence law in this state allows an injury victim to recover compensation, even if he or she was partially responsible for the accident that caused them. Likewise, the amount of restitution to which a plaintiff is entitled would be reduced by his or her degree of fault in the incident.
In a wrongful death claim, it may be found that your loved one’s own actions in some way contributed to his or her death. In such cases of contributory negligence, the damages awarded to the estate are determined by the percentage your family member was deemed at fault.
In settlement negotiations, insurance companies will apply this rule when evaluating claims. However, allocating fault is not always black and white. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help ensure that fault is properly assigned and fair compensation is pursued.
Examples of Comparative Negligence in New York Wrongful Death Claims
It is not uncommon in wrongful death lawsuits for the defendant to acknowledge his or her negligence while asserting that the deceased person was partially responsible for what happened.
Here are several scenarios in which the defendant may contend that the decedent’s death was, to some degree, his or her own fault:
- A fatal car crash: The defendant may assert that the deceased was not properly wearing his or her seatbelt
- A motorcycle accident: The defendant may claim that the victim was not wearing a helmet
- A pedestrian accident: If a driver fatally hits a jogger at night, he or she may say that the deceased person was not wearing proper reflective clothing
- A medical malpractice lawsuit: The defendant may claim that the victim failed to disclose his or her full medical history or other relevant health information prior to surgery
- A fatal slip-and-fall accident: The defendant may claim that the deceased failed to heed warning signs of the hazardous condition
These examples illustrate how common it is for both parties to share a degree of blame for a fatal incident. Oftentimes, when the degree of fault is unclear, your wrongful death attorney may consult accident reconstruction experts. These specialists can help determine how the accident played out.
If your family finds itself in this kind of situation, remember that all is not lost. In some cases, comparative negligence laws make it easier for victims to recover damages after an accident.
Potential Damages in a New York Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In pursuing a wrongful death action, the goal is to reach a settlement that will sufficiently provide for your family’s current and future financial needs while also honoring the legacy of the deceased person. Even if your family member bore some responsibility for his or her death, you may be able to seek compensation to get your family back on their feet after your loss.
You may be able to recover damages such as:
- Funeral costs
- Burial expenses
- Medical bills and medical expenses associated with the fatal accident
- Lost wages of the deceased
- Loss of household services the deceased performed
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of medical benefits
- Loss of the deceased’s pension or retirement benefits
- Punitive damages
Losing the anticipated financial support of a loved one can have life-changing consequences.
It is essential to take the time to fully assess all your losses, both current and potential, after the death of your family member.
A knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer can assist you in assigning a monetary value to your losses. Carefully calculating your economic damages helps ensure that you seek enough financial compensation to give your family a fresh start after the tragic death of your loved one.
Additional Factors That May Impact the Amount of Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim
All potential paths to a fair settlement agreement must be explored. Apart from the damages mentioned above, additional details may impact how much compensation you are eligible to receive after your loved one’s death.
In New York, wrongful death settlements or jury awards can vary by quite a wide margin. The conditions of the wrongful death, the degree of negligence by each party, and the life circumstances of the deceased are all weighty factors. Also considered is the impact the untimely death will have on the surviving family members.
Other factors that may affect the compensation amount in a wrongful death settlement include:
- The deceased’s income, as well as future income potential
- The deceased’s role in the family, such as primary income provider or caregiver
- Whether or not the deceased had minor children
- The age and life expectancy of the surviving spouse
- The deceased’s training and education
- The deceased’s health before his or her death
- The deceased’s age
- Medical expenses incurred prior to the victim’s death
- The circumstances of the wrongful death prove it was an accident, intentional act, medical malpractice, etc
The economic damages awarded as a wrongful death settlement will also depend, to some extent, on the financial resources of the liable party. A wrongful death lawsuit against a large entity, such as an insurance company, may result in a larger compensation award since these types of defendants have the means to pay significant judgment amounts.
The experienced wrongful death attorney you consult will work to fully understand the details of your case before making any promises. Because, not only does a quality lawyer refer cases to the best possible fit for you if necessary, but he or she will also work to make certain that every single one of your family’s losses is taken into account.
New York’s Comparative Negligence Law in Wrongful Death Insurance Settlements
Oftentimes, the simplest and most efficient way to seek compensation in wrongful death cases is to file a claim with the insurance company representing the at-fault party. In amicable insurance negotiations, this can be a relatively smooth process.
If the defendant accepts responsibility for your loved one’s death, his or her insurance company will likely offer you a settlement agreement shortly after the claim is filed. In the immediate aftermath of your loss, when you are struggling emotionally and financially, you may be inclined to accept the first settlement offer that comes your way. It is critical to consult an experienced attorney before accepting any offers.
Insurance adjusters may attempt to pressure grieving families into a hasty wrongful death settlement. When this happens to you, proceed with caution. The terms of a quick settlement may not fully compensate you for the long-term impact your relative’s death will have on your family.
Further, insurance companies will work hard to use the New York comparative negligence rule to their own advantage. Their aim is to close cases quickly and protect their own bottom line.
Insurance adjusters may do all in their power to allege that your loved one bore significant responsibility for his or her own death. They may attempt to exaggerate or even manipulate the established facts of your wrongful death case – to lower their payout to you.
Whatever your family’s circumstances may be, it is in your best interest to let a legal professional negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. A wrongful death attorney knows the negligence laws and how these can be put to work for you and your legal rights. He or she can thus shield you from bad-faith insurance adjusters.
Before making any decisions, your wrongful death attorney will evaluate all settlement offers and make any counteroffers as necessary. If a reasonable wrongful death settlement agreement cannot be reached, you can then choose to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
Reach Out to a New York Wrongful Death Attorney for Advice
Losing a loved one due to another person’s negligent act can lead to intense emotional distress coupled with serious financial hardship. This is certainly understandable, but you do have hope; pursuing a wrongful death claim may alleviate some of the stress and anxiety you are under.
We understand that the entire legal process may seem daunting. New York wrongful death laws can be complicated to understand. Grieving families are in no position to navigate the legal system on their own.
The team of wrongful death attorneys at the New York law firm of Hill & Moin stands ready to ease the legal process for you. When we take your case, we will do the legal legwork so that you can focus on healing after your loss.
At Hill & Moin, our personal injury lawyers are known for their respect and compassion for every single client they represent. Wrongful death cases are extremely personal, and you deserve to work with a legal professional who will treat you like family.
When we take on your case, we will not rest until we have done all in our power to get your family on the road to emotional and financial recovery after your devastating loss. Our wrongful death attorneys are adept at holding negligent parties accountable for their actions. We endeavor to maximize all potential compensation in a wrongful death claim, even when your loved one was partially at fault.
The Hill & Moin team, well-versed in New York state law, is ready to answer your questions about comparative negligence in wrongful death claims. We serve several New York City areas, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. We wish to give you the confidence to pursue your legal remedies for compensation.
Learn about your Personal Injury Recovery SolutionsⓇ and how you can secure your future. Call us at (212) 618-6000 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. A member of our legal team is standing by to take your call.
Don’t wonder about your rights!