There are few circumstances more tragic than the loss of a loved one through an accident or intentional harm. Aside from cutting short the life of someone, these events are devastating for those left behind and forced to carry on for years or decades without their loved ones.
A loved one can never be replaced, but in New York, the laws provide for an opportunity for those left behind (as well as the victim’s estate) to be compensated for and recover financial damages.
Here’s what you need to know about survivorship suits and wrongful death claims, they’re differences, and which one is the appropriate avenue for you to be compensated for the death of a loved one.
How a Survivorship Claim Is Defined in New York
Survivorship, which is often called a survival action, centers around the suffering of the person who died.
When a survival action is brought in court, the estate of the person who died attempts to recover damages related to the pain and suffering the victim when through, including the costs of their medical bills and lost earnings.
This action is similar to what could have been recovered by the victim through a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived.
When a survival action is successful, then compensation is dispersed through the estate rather than directly to any surviving family members.
What New York Considers a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death lawsuit centers around the family left behind in the wake of a person’s death. It allows close family members to seek damages through a civil lawsuit.
Damages often sought after in wrongful death suits include suffering and grief, current as well as future income that was lost due to the death, any outstanding medical bills associated with the injuries sustained by the person who died, and funeral expenses.
Who is Eligible to File a Survivor Action or Wrongful Death Suit?
Usually, a survivor action is brought forth by the executor of the estate. For wrongful death lawsuits, the actions are normally initiated by those close to the person who died.
Eligible parties include their spouse, children, or any other legally-recognized individuals who are financial dependents, or even the parents if the person who died is unmarried.
Who Can Be Held Accountable?
For either a wrongful death lawsuit or survival action, it must be proven that the defendant was liable for the death of the person in question.
Legally, this means that it must be established that the death was the result of carelessness, recklessness, or negligence by someone who had a duty of care to the person who died.
The duty of care is a concept under the law that means someone has an obligation to exercise reasonable care when performing actions that can harm someone else.
A good example is those who operate vehicles on the road. Every driver has the fundamental duty to safely drive so that other drivers are safe. Reckless driving can lead to accidents that can kill another person and that could create grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Proving Your Claim
Once a suit has been filed, then your attorney will work to begin building the case. They must prove the following things in order to be successful:
Negligent Acts or Failure to Act
It must be established that the person being sued for the death acted in a way or failed to act in a way that resulted in the death of your loved one. Driving, as given as an example above, is a good example.
Establishing Reason for the Award
It also must be established why an award in being pursued by including the beneficiaries or survivors who would receive any award granted by the court. The award is based on any damage caused by the incident in question.
In New York, economic losses are the only thing you can pursue with a wrongful death suit along with pain and suffering that may have been experienced by survivors as the result of the death.
Grief is not given any award by the court, but any children left behind can also have damages secured on their behalf for the loss of education and guidance that their deceased parent may have provided them if they had not died.
Understanding who is liable for the death of a loved one and filing an action in court is a complex topic, one that is best handled by an experienced and skilled attorney.
No amount of compensation can bring back a loved one who died, but pursuing a wrongful death suit or survival action against at-fault parties can help to bring you closure and make the financial implications of death less of a burden.