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Who is Allowed to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

If you have lost a loved one in an accident due to the negligence or intentional actions of another person, you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is a specific type of personal injury claim in which the plaintiff is a family member or other close acquaintance of the deceased, rather than the deceased or their estate.

Who has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit varies from state to state. In New York, the personal representative of the estate of the deceased would be the one to initiate the wrongful death claim against the liable party, but the damages could go to any of several parties, including:

  • Surviving spouse and children: State law in New York gives priority for recovery in wrongful death cases to a surviving spouse and children of the deceased. Circumstances of the case will dictate whether these individuals receive all or part of the award.
  • Parents: If there is no surviving spouse or children, the parents of the deceased are eligible to receive the entire award.
  • Siblings: If the parents are deceased and there is no surviving spouse or children, then brothers and sisters of the deceased may be eligible to split the award among themselves.

Because the personal representative is the one to actually begin the claim, it is important you have an estate plan in place that addresses the issue of who will become your personal representative upon your death. You should make sure to select a person who is organized, capable and trustworthy. It could be a spouse, relative, close friend, attorney or anyone else you trust in that capacity.

For more information about wrongful death lawsuits, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP.