Recovery in a Wrongful Death Action Might Not Be What You Think It Is

Nothing can be more horrific than losing a loved one to an accident. The emotional pain, hurt, and anger that you might go through can be unimaginable. If your loved one died due to the negligence or fault of another, you might think you’d be entitled to the highest compensation one could receive for the insurmountable grief you have to endure.

Unfortunately, monetary recovery in a wrongful death action in New York might not be what you think it is.

Although it may not seem fair, the family of a person killed in an accident is not automatically entitled to compensation based solely on the death of their loved one. Some states allow you to recover for loss of companionship and the emotional pain and anguish you are suffering — New York does not.

However, this doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be entitled to any recovery for the loss of your loved one. Even though New York law doesn’t permit a surviving spouse or family member to recover for their own pain and suffering, they may be able to recover for the conscious pain and suffering their loved one felt before they died from their accident injuries. The family of the decedent may also be able to recover for economic damages. 

What Economic Damages Can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Action?

Economic damages are the most common form of recovery in a New York wrongful death action. The family of an accident victim who has died might be entitled to receive compensation for:   

  • Funeral expenses
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses
  • Future lost earnings
  • Loss of household services
  • Loss of parental guidance
  • Loss of inheritance

In limited circumstances, a court might also award punitive damages in a wrongful death action. These damages are meant to compensate the decedent’s family if the defendant’s conduct was willful, particularly egregious, and demonstrated a reckless disregard for the potential consequences.

What is Conscious Pain and Suffering?

New York doesn’t permit spouses, children, parents, or other family members to be compensated for the emotional pain and sorrow they endured as a result of losing their loved one. However, the decedent’s estate may be able to bring a survivorship action for the conscious pain and suffering experienced by the decedent before they died. This cause of action requires a showing that the decedent was conscious and cognitively aware of the pain they were experiencing. 

You may also be entitled to compensation for the fear of impending death felt by your loved one. Also known as “pre-impact terror” damages in New York, these damages can be challenging to prove as they require demonstrating the fear felt by the accident victim between the moment they knew of the danger that caused their death and the impact of the injury.     

Theoretically, if the decedent was not employed, did not have children, died instantly, and didn’t see the accident coming, they would be entitled to nothing — even if they were killed due to the fault of another. Insurance companies know this and defend these cases vigorously, especially in cases where there was a short window of time between the accident and the death.

We have obtained millions of dollars for families who have lost loved ones in an accident due to the negligence or wrongful conduct of another — even in cases where victims have died just moments after an accident. 

Contact an Experienced New York City Wrongful Death Attorney

If you’ve found yourself in the unfortunate situation of having lost a loved one due to the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of another, it is imperative to seek a lawyer with experience in handling wrongful death claims. A skilled wrongful death attorney understands the nuances and complexities of navigating wrongful death claims in New York and can help ensure you receive the maximum amount of recovery you’re entitled under the law.

The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown LLP have extensive experience fighting for the rights of injured workers, accident victims, and their families to ensure they get the maximum compensation they deserve. Located in Manhattan, we have been handling personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout New York City since 1937. Call to schedule a free consultation at (212) 425-1999 today.