Wrongful Death

There is nothing more devastating than the untimely death of a loved one brought about by someone else’s unreasonable or reckless actions or inaction. The loss of one’s father, mother, or child deeply affects the entire family. Whether death results from the negligence or misconduct of an individual, corporation, or public entity, there are complicated rules governing who can bring such lawsuits; where they must be brought; and who is entitled to recover and for what category of loss. Over the years, the White Plains wrongful death attorneys at Keegan, Keegan & Strutt have secured substantial verdicts and settlements in cases that are emotionally challenging and often legally complex.

If you have suffered the unfortunate death of a child, parent or other loved one, our White Plains wrongful death attorneys will fight for your right to economic justice. Contact a Westchester County wrongful death attorney today.

New York Wrongful Death FAQ

Who brings the wrongful death lawsuit?

It is usually the administrator of decedent's estate who brings the action to recover damages for wrongful death and conscious pain and suffering (the conscious pain and suffering of the decedent is part of the estate).

Who has the right to actually recover under the wrongful death statute?

A cause of action to recover damages for wrongful death is a property right that belongs solely to the distributees of the decedent and vests in them at the decedent's death. Personal injury damages are part of the decedent's estate and, if the person died without a will, they pass under the so-called law of intestacy (the body of law that determines who is entitled to property under the rules of inheritance).

What types of losses to the surviving family members are available under New York law?

Damages in a wrongful death action are, by statute, limited to "pecuniary injuries" suffered by the distributees of decedent's estate (EPTL 5-4.3). Wrongful death proceeds are paid to the decedent's distributees to compensate them for the monetary losses that the decedent's death caused them. Such damages are limited to loss of support, voluntary assistance and possible inheritance, as well as medical and funeral expenses incidental to death, but do not include those damages which could have been recovered in a personal injury action had the decedent survived. Compensation for the loss of a parent's guidance and training is also available—even for adult children, for example,—but it is often limited.

Unfortunately, New York does permit surviving family members to recover for mental anguish incurred as a result of their loss. Because the wrongful death statute was passed in the agrarian era, the law still reasons that a surviving family member has to demonstrate the economic loss of the decedent to them. Thus if a farmer lost his son for example, he would be permitted to show the economic or pecuniary value his son provided to keep the family farm going. This archaic rule is a harsh one, but the New York Legislature has never seen fit to alter its limitations to allow compensation for the mental anguish that flows to the surviving family members from the loss of a child, or any other family member for that matter.

How long after a loved one’s death does a lawsuit have to be filed?

The short answer is that in New York the wrongful death statute of limitations allows surviving family members two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. The failure to timely file could prevent a family from ever recovering compensation for their loss. There are twists and turns that may allow for shorter or slightly longer times. That is why it is so important to speak with a New York wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.