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What is wrongful death and who can file such a claim?

Anyone in New York who has lost a loved one as the result of another party's negligence might have questions about the recovery of financial and emotional damages. This is where the civil justice system comes in. While criminal charges might be filed against the party believed responsible, a wrongful death claim for financial relief could be filed in a civil court.

A criminal conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt while a preponderance of the evidence is the standard of proof necessary to establish liability in a civil claim. For that reason, a civil lawsuit could be successful even if a defendant was not convicted of criminal charges. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the deceased victim's surviving family. A spouse and children are typically allowed to file, but some states also allow domestic partners and stepchildren to pursue recovery.

Although exceptions exist, the damages that could be sought include medical costs when the death was not instantaneous. Also, all expenses related to end-of-life arrangements can be included in documented claims along with the loss of income and benefits, inheritance and other financial losses. Non-economic and emotional claims could consist of loss of affection, love, nurturing, care and any services typically provided by the decedent. The pain and emotional suffering of the surviving loved ones may also form part of the claim.

This is a complicated field of the law, and most New Yorkers who consider filing wrongful death lawsuits consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer can determine the viability of such a claim. If there are grounds for the lawsuit, the attorney can make sure it is filed within the statute of limitations, and can provide the necessary support and guidance throughout ensuing legal proceedings.

Source: thebalance.com, "Wrongful Death and Liability Policies", Marianne Bonner, April 13, 2018

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