What Actually Is A Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is any case where a person died because of the wrongful actions from another person. Basically, whenever the careless or negligent act of one person causes injuries that result in a fatality that is considered a wrongful death. Common examples of the types of cases that New York wrongful death attorneys can handle, include truck accidents where a car, bicycle, pedestrian or even another truck, is hit by a truck those happen a lot. New York City wrongful death lawyers also handle cases involving a construction accident where the person falls and did not have proper lifelines, or they did not have proper safety equipment, and that is why they died. There have been a lot of wrongful death cases in recent years in Manhattan where workers who were performing construction or repairs in an elevator shaft fell because they did not have the proper fall protection, such as harnesses and life lines. Other examples, include cases where a building owner was negligent in their maintenance of the building, and that maintenance caused a fire, in which people died. Our New York City personal injury lawyers have handled a number of cases where the owners did faulty electrical work or used unlicensed personnel and that caused a fire.
Wrongful death also includes medical malpractice case, where a doctor has treated an injury, or illness, and failed to properly diagnose, or treat the illness. This can cause a death. A wrongful death case under New York law is a case whereby someone dies because of the wrongful act of another. Under federal law, it also could be what is known as death in the High Seas act. This is when people work in water, or over water conditions. They might have fallen overboard, the boat may sink, or the boat hit something and they perished.
A wrongful death case can be brought in almost any circumstance where someone had a responsibility to do something, and they failed to do so, which causes a person’s death. We have even seen wrongful death cases against apartment buildings, or other places where proper security was not provided. This allowed a homicide to occur. There have been many stories of wrongful death cases involving bars that should have metal detectors, or have metal detectors that do not work properly. We have handled a few of those kinds of cases as well.
It can be any kind of case where somebody has died unjustifiably as a wrongful act of another person, or because the carelessness, or something needed falls within the general ambit of a wrongful death.
Who Can Actually Bring A Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim has to be brought in the name of the estate. There is a process involved where when a person dies, their lawful distributes, which would be usually either the spouse, children, or parents, the next-of-kin would have to go to circuit court. They would establish Letters Testamentary, or Letters of Administration. That would allow them to then bring a lawsuit for the estate of the person, and certainly claims can be brought on behalf of the distribute, which is anyone who is financially supported by the person who died, or the decedents. In certain cases, there is nobody who can bring a claim that is recognized by statute.
For example, in a case of undocumented people, undocumented aliens, or illegal immigrants that pass away, there is the office of the public administrator that could be appointed for people who just do not have anyone who can act as a state representative for them. We had the public administrator appointed on a number of cases where we had tourists who were visiting New York and died in bus accidents. We can bring an application to the court to have the public administrator named as the state executive who can then bring a cause of action for wrongful deaths against any responsible persons or parties in cases of illegal immigrants.
Are Punitive Damages Recoverable In Wrongful Death Cases?
Punitive damages are only recoverable in New York for certain wrongful death actions whereby there has been intentional or very extreme reckless conduct that creates a public risk of harm that is the general standard. Therefore, punitive damages are not recoverable in the ordinary negligence case, but in cases where there is really a mal-intent, or someone did something intentionally wrong, or intentionally to harm another human being. In those kinds of cases, you cannot get punitive damages. The typical case will be if someone dies because of excessive force by a police officer, as in a shooting case. Those kinds of cases tend to warrant punitive damages.
In general, where there is recklessness or a disregard of public safety, those types of damages tend to receive punitive damage awards. Certainly, we have sought them in cases of driving where a motorist, bus driver, or a truck driver is under the influence of drugs. Their actions are reckless. They have disregarded clear warning signs of what could happen. The well-known case where punitive damages were awarded was the Ford Pinto case, where they subjected people to a known hazard of cars bursting into flames from the back end. Not every negligence case can equate to, or justify a punitive damage award, but you have to show bad intentional or reckless conduct to justify the punitive damage award.
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