When you are grieving the death of a loved one, it can be incredibly difficult to even consider the possibility of a lawsuit. When a loved one has died as a result of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, it is essential to seek help from a Syracuse wrongful death lawyer. While moving forward with a lawsuit may not be the first issue on your mind, it is important to remember that there is a limited time window in which to file a wrongful death claim, as well as a survival action where it is appropriate. Wrongful death claims can allow family members to cover some of the monetary losses associated with a devastating accidental death and to hold the defendant accountable for the deceased’s pain and suffering.
Whether you are the named personal representative of the deceased’s estate or you will be seeking damages as a surviving family member, it is important to understand the steps in a Syracuse wrongful death claim in order to prepare for your case. The following are the general steps in a New York wrongful death case.
Determine Whether You Have a Wrongful Death Claim
The first step in a wrongful death case is to begin working with a Syracuse wrongful death attorney to determine whether you have a claim. Your lawyer can evaluate the circumstances of your loved one’s death and help you to understand your potential chances of winning a claim. Your lawyer will also be able to provide you with more information about getting the claim filed, including ensuring that the statute of limitations has not yet run out on the case and identifying the personal representative (or executor) of the deceased’s estate.
Probate Process Begins
Under New York law, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed by the personal representative (or executor) of the deceased’s estate. In some cases, the personal representative is a surviving spouse or surviving adult child, but the personal representative also may be another party altogether. This party is responsible for filing the wrongful death case, even if the personal representative will be seeking damages on behalf of the surviving family members. Given that the personal representative of the estate must be the party to file the claim, the probate process will usually need to begin before a wrongful death claim can be filed.
Identify Damages in the Case
You should next work with a wrongful death attorney to identify the damages you will be seeking in the wrongful death case. In general, a plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit can seek compensatory damages, which include compensation for different forms of both economic and non-economic losses, such as:
- Burial and funeral expenses for the deceased;
- Deceased’s pain and suffering;
- Medical bills of the deceased between the time of injury and death;
- Loss of the deceased’s financial support; and
- Loss of the deceased’s care.
It is important to know that survivors of the deceased cannot seek compensation for their own pain and suffering due to the death of the deceased. Rather, New York only permits pain and suffering damages related to the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased.
File the Wrongful Death Claim
Next, the personal representative of the deceased will actually file the lawsuit. It will be critical to file the lawsuit before the wrongful death statute of limitations runs out. In a New York wrongful death claim, the plaintiff has two years from the date of the deceased’s death to file a lawsuit.
Discovery and Settlement Negotiations
After the claim is filed, the discovery process will begin. In discovery, the parties will seek evidence to use in the case, including through depositions and documents. During discovery, settlement negotiations will likely begin before the case goes to trial. If the defendant offers a reasonable settlement, it may be possible to obtain a settlement and end the case before trial.
If a settlement cannot be reached, the wrongful death case will go to trial. At any point, the parties can still reach an agreement and can settle. Otherwise, the court will hear the case and will reach a decision about liability. If the plaintiff wins the case, the court will award damages.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney in Syracuse
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated, and it is important to have an experienced wrongful death lawyer on your side. Whether you are the personal representative of the deceased’s estate or you are a family member who is seeking damages through a wrongful death claim, one of our experienced Syracuse wrongful death attorneys can speak with you today about a claim. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP in Syracuse today to learn more about how we can assist you.