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FAQs About Wrongful Death Cases

What is a wrongful death claim?

As New York wrongful death lawyers, we get a lot of calls from Syracuse and beyond asking this simple question. Here’s the simple answer: When someone dies because of the negligence, carelessness or wrongful acts of others, the deceased obviously is no longer able to bring a claim for justice on his own. Recognizing this injustice, our laws allow the surviving family members to bring a claim on their deceased family member’s behalf both to recover compensation for whatever the deceased suffered before he died, and also for the economic loss (loss of income, loss of the value of household services, loss of parental guidance, etc.) that the family has suffered because of the loved one’s wrongful death.

Who can file a wrongful death case?

A surviving spouse or, if there is none, the children may bring the death claim. If there is neither a surviving spouse nor surviving children, the parents of the decedent may pursue the wrongful death claim, or if there are none of those either, other family members may bring the claim.

What is a “conscious pain and suffering” claim on behalf of a decedent?

In addition to claiming money damages for their own loss of the value of decedent’s household contributions and economic contributions, a decedent's family may recover damages for the conscious pain and suffering that the decedent endured prior to death. The idea is this: If the decedent had survived, and had not died due to the wrongdoing or negligence of the wrongdoer, then he would have been able to sue for the pain and suffering he endured. So why should the wrongdoer get off the hook simply because his or her victim died instead of surviving his or her careless act? The law recognizes the injustice that would result from such a rule, and therefore allows the surviving family members to sue to recover compensation for what their loved one suffered before he or she died.

What kinds of “economic” damages are recoverable in a wrongful death case?

Normally, the following are recoverable:

  • medical and funeral expenses;
  • the portion of the decedent’s income that he/she would have spent on family members had he/she not been killed;
  • the pension, medical coverage benefits, and other “fringe” benefits lost because of the death;
  • loss of inheritance;
  • loss of parental advice and guidance to children; and
  • loss of household services that the deceased was providing to his/her spouse.
Is New York’s Wrongful Death Law Fair?

No! It is one of the most unfair laws in the New York law books. The unfairness is that the family of a wrongful death victim can’t get any compensation for emotional suffering, grief, and the loneliness and heartache that the death of a loved one causes. New York is unusual in this regard; most other states allow compensation for these things. This law is most unfair to the very young and very old. If a three-year old gets run over by a drunk driver, the parents get NOTHING for their heartache and grief, and they also get NEXT TO NOTHING for “economic” loss because the child was not supporting them. So the case settles for very, very little money, when the REAL loss (your child!) is priceless.

The Syracuse New York wrongful death lawyers at Michaels and Smolak have been trying to change this law for decades, but the insurance companies block our efforts in Albany. One day we hope to win!

What if I have other questions about wrongful death cases?

Contact Michaels & Smolak today for a free consultation. Our Syracuse New York personal injury lawyers are well versed in the law regarding wrongful death and will answer your questions and discuss your case.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
He is one of the top lawyers in central New York & has the accolades to show for this, but in my book he's the top lawyer in the country. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Bersani & to have had him on my team! Matthew
★★★★★
I admire the amount of background work he did which was instrumental in getting me a very good settlement. Also, having never been involved in a personal injury lawsuit, Michael was very patient explaining the legal issues. You're in good hands with Michael Bersani and the firm of Michaels & Smolak. Richard
★★★★★
Dave took over my wrongful death case after it was badly messed up by another lawyer. He was dogged in his pursuit of all the information needed to make a solid case, and he succeeded in bringing it to a very satisfactory settlement. He was honest and straightforward, kind and compassionate through meetings, depositions, court appearances. I highly recommend him. Christine
★★★★★
Dave has handled our legal matters for over 20 years. Always there when we needed him. We were so happy with his professionalism and results that we referred him to several friends. If we ever need this type of service again, Dave will be the first and only call we make. Jackie