What Are the Basics of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York?

Losing a loved one due to someone else’s mistakes can be heartbreaking. Fortunately, you may be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit if the cause of death was due to another person or entity’s negligent or intentional acts (including criminal). Generally, these lawsuits are based on breach of duty, meaning that the defendant failed to exercise a duty of care owed to the deceased. We have highlighted some of the basics below:

Duty of Care: The defendant must have owed the deceased a duty of care, which refers to the obligation to act with reason and not place others in harm’s way. We are all legally required to act with a duty of care. It’s important to watch out for others and to make sure we aren’t putting anyone in danger. When that is breached in some way, then legal action is allowed to be taken.

Breach of Duty: Being owed a duty of care is not enough. The deceased family must prove that the defendant breached this duty by failing to act with the same level of care that an ordinary person would have used in the same situation. They must show that the defendant did not do their job at making sure their actions wouldn’t harm others. That negligence led to a wrongful death that could have been avoided.

Causation: The breach of duty must also be shown to have been a direct cause of death and not just a contributing factor. The family of the deceased needs to be able to bring solid evidence that this death was not an accident. That the defendant recklessly caused the wrongful death of their loved one. If they can do so then they can proceed in a court of law.

Damages: If causation has already been established, that’s enough to prove a wrongful death lawsuit. The court will then assess the damages that the surviving family members can claim, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of inheritance, and emotional suffering.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Wrongful death falls in the category of personal injury law and should be handled by an experienced attorney. A wrongful death attorney understands the deceased family’s rights and they will seek justice. Common causes of these types of lawsuits are car accidents, medical malpractice, and dangerous products that lead to a loss of life. 

However, anywhere there is a breach of duty that results in death will make it possible to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. The New York Law demands that only a personal representative, such as an executor, of the deceased’s estate, can file this type of lawsuit. There’s also a 2-year statute of limitation (starting from the date of death), with an exception to medical malpractice cases, in which the deadline to file a claim is two and a half years. 

Moreover, N.Y. Est. Powers & Trusts Law § 5-4.1 outlines that if there is an active criminal case of the same incident, a wrongful death lawsuit cannot be initiated until after its resolution – and must take place not more than one year from the date the case ends. In any of the situations, a wrongful death lawyer at Friedman Levy in New York will provide you with the legal advice and guidance necessary to pursue a claim. They will assist you in handling the court proceedings, as well as any other legal challenges that may arise along the way – so that you can hold the negligent party accountable.


Not enough can be said about the difficult process of grieving for a loved one, and at times it can seem like justice will never be served. However, it is possible to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit if the loss of life was due to someone else’s negligent or intentional act. Starting the process alone may seem daunting, but with the help of a qualified attorney, you will be on the right track toward getting some closure. They will be able to keep track of all the details and make sure your loved one gets the justice they deserve.


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