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Difference Between Wrongful Death and a Personal Injury Case

Couple pining after their relative at funeral

If your loved one was killed by someone else’s negligence, your family has the right to recover compensation from the parties responsible for your loss. Nothing can fill the gap left by a lost family member, but securing compensation can alleviate some of the burdens, and obtaining justice for their death can help the healing process. Survivors of accident victims can recover damages, but so-called “wrongful death” claims are a bit different from other personal injury claims. Continue reading to learn about wrongful death claims in New York and how they differ from other personal injury cases. Call our dedicated New York wrongful death attorneys if you lost a family member in a car crash or other fatal accident in the Hudson Valley.

Who Can Bring the Claim?

A typical personal injury claim is brought by the injured victim on their own behalf, or by a parent or guardian on behalf of a minor or someone else who lacks capacity. When a person is killed in an accident, they obviously cannot bring a lawsuit on their own behalf. Instead, surviving family members can seek recovery by way of a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death lawsuits operate much like a personal injury claim, but they only come into play when the victim has passed away as a result of the underlying incident.

Wrongful death operates differently in different states. In New York, a wrongful death claim must be brought by the personal representative of the estate of the deceased. Not just any family member can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. It may be a spouse, parent, or child of the deceased, but the court must appoint that person as the estate’s representative.

What Damages Can You Collect?

Damages available in a personal injury case differ slightly from those available in a wrongful death case. Most of the damages in a wrongful death case approximate the damages that would have been available had the victim survived and brought a personal injury lawsuit, but there are some differences. In a New York wrongful death case, the plaintiff can recover:

  • Medical expenses relating to the deceased’s injuries
  • Burial expenses
  • Wages and benefits lost between the time the deceased was injured and their death
  • The value of support and services the victim provided to family members
  • The value of parental nurturing and guidance lost to surviving children
  • Lost inheritance suffered by surviving children
  • Conscious pain and suffering endured by the victim before they passed away
  • Interest on the damages award calculated from the date of death

Where Does the Money Go?

In a normal personal injury claim, the victim keeps the damages award or settlement. In a wrongful death case, the funds are distributed in accordance with state law to the heirs of the estate. Typically, the case is brought by the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased. If there are no children, then the entirety of the award goes to the spouse. If there are children but no spouse, the award is divided equally among the children. If there are children and a spouse, then the spouse receives $50,000 and half of the remainder, while the children split the other half. If there are no surviving children or spouse, then the settlement goes to the parents of the deceased.

If someone you care about was killed by someone else’s negligence in New York, find out if you have a right to compensation for your loss by contacting the passionate and trial-ready Hudson Valley personal injury lawyers at Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello, LLP for a free consultation at 845-331-4100 (Kingston) or 845-236-4411 (Marlboro).

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