Wrongful Death Law 101: Who Can File Lawsuits

              Wrongful death litigation is an attempt to provide justice to the families of those who lost a loved one due to a situation caused by negligence. When the behavior of a third party directly or indirectly caused the death of an individual this is the time when the lawsuit must be pursued. There are many facets to what constitutes wrongful death and what damages are entitled to be received. Although the process can be difficult emotionally it is important to know which rights are afforded to those involved.


              There are many costs that are associated with injury and death.  The surviving family or estate is able to file for damages for these costs. They include but are not limited to, hospital and doctor bills, damage to property like an automobile, and even funeral and burial cost. These are the most direct and measurable cost because they are recent and documented.

              There are other costs which are less direct but are every bit as important. These are obviously harder to calculate and we advise speaking with a top grade accident & injury lawyer to get a better idea on this. Often individuals have retirement accounts or pension plans from which they would have received funds throughout their life. Families can be entitled to transfer the payments to surviving beneficiaries. Another significant payment can be from loss of future earnings. There are complicated formulas used to calculate what someone would have earned based on current income, anticipated future income and life expectancy. This can be paid out over time especially if the individual who lost their life was the provider for the family.

              A more difficult damage to determine, but just as real, is emotional damage or lost of companionship. These are paid out based on the fact that the remaining family has suffered a loss in their family. Therapy counseling and other cost can be occurred from this, but emotional damage is a common occurrence after death. Often in the aftermath people miss work therefor losing income, or in the case of children fall behind in school due to being absent, which can have long term effects.

           In cases where negligence was more direct and easy to prove there is the option of punitive damage. Punitive damages are meant to punish the individual who was negligent to discourage future behavior by themselves or others. This can be the case where someone did not take necessary precautions to ensure safety of others because they wanted to save money, did not make it a priority, or even just irresponsible.

Who has the right?

              The rule of thumb is the closer the relationship of the family the easier the lawsuit. In this case, spouses can always file for wrongful death suits (assuming all the other factors are met). Minors can file suit upon the death of a parent and parents may file upon the death of a minor. Where there are variations in the law are other relationships or situations, for example adult children filing for their parents or parents filing for adult children. Also, more distant family member like cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.

Sadly, wrongful deaths occur from very mundane situations. Slip & fall injuries for example can seem innocent, until they can potentially lead to death. Spills and falling objects can also sometimes be so severe that they result in death. Anyone whose family member was a victim of such negligence must know these laws..

Contributed by:

Ribowsky Law- Queens Personal Injury & Accident Lawyer 109-12 Jamaica Ave, Richmond Hill, NY 11418 (718) 659-5333

Shulman & Hill Personal Injury Law Brooklyn 26 Court Street 21st Floor Brooklyn, NY 11242 (718) 852-4701

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