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Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a Car Accident


No amount of compensation can ease the grief and emotional burden that comes with the loss of a loved one. However, when someone passes away due to injuries caused by a negligent or reckless driver, that person’s family may be entitled to pursue a wrongful death action. 

A wrongful death lawsuit has two main benefits. First, it can help to ensure the wrongdoer is held accountable. Second, the family may be entitled to recover their economic damages, including compensation for the victim’s accident-related pain and suffering.  

Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a car accident victim. The action must be commenced by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. This is often the spouse, child, or parent of the deceased. There are cases, though, where the personal representative is an individual designated in the decedent’s will, or, in the absence of a will, the representative can be appointed by the Surrogate’s Court.

A wrongful death action cannot be filed until you first obtain Letters Testamentary (if the decedent left a will) or Letters of Administration (if the decedent did not leave a will). Additionally, a lawsuit can only be commenced if the decedent would have been able to pursue a personal injury action against the defendant if they were alive. 

What Compensation Can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The loss of a loved one might not only have a devastating emotional impact on a family, but a significant financial one, too. Monetary recovery in a wrongful death action is meant to compensate the victim’s loved ones for their pecuniary losses. Specifically, the following damages may be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical costs in connection with the victim’s final injury
  • The victim’s financial contributions to the family
  • The value of services or support the victim would have contributed to the family
  • Lost inheritance
  • The value of parental care and guidance

While direct damages such as hospital expenses are typically straightforward, other economic losses aren’t always easy to calculate. For instance, if the victim passed early in their career, an economist may be needed to show how much they would have earned. A jury will consider a variety of factors to determine certain types of losses.   

It’s essential to understand that in New York State, family members are not entitled to recover compensation for their emotional anguish, sorrow, and grief in a wrongful death action. However, by filing a survivorship cause of action, they may be eligible to obtain a monetary award on the victim’s behalf for the physical pain and mental suffering they endured due to their injuries.

Importantly, any compensation will be distributed under New York State intestate law if the victim passed without a valid will.      

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Action After a Car Accident?

There are strict statutes of limitation that bar the amount of time you have to file a wrongful death action in New York. Generally, you only have two years from the date of the victim’s death to commence a lawsuit. But there may be other critical deadlines that you should know about, such as the time frame to file for no-fault death benefits: you only have 30 days from the accident date to submit an application with the insurance company.

If a municipality is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, there is a requirement that you must put them on notice before filing suit. There is a 90-day time frame from the date the personal representative is appointed to file a Notice of Claim with the applicable town, city, agency, authority, or department. The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a municipality is one year and 90 days.

Contact an Experienced New York Wrongful Death Attorney

If you lost a loved one in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness, you may be eligible to receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. It’s vital to have a skilled and experienced attorney by your side who will advise you and fight to obtain the maximum monetary recovery to which you are entitled. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has extensive experience negotiating favorable settlements and securing substantial jury verdicts on behalf of clients.

The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has convenient office locations in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, as well as mobile locations serving Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.