Losing a loved one is easily one of the most painful experiences any human can go through. But when death comes prematurely due to harmful acts, either committed intentionally or via negligence, families have the right to look for justice.
A Life Cut Short
In August of 2008, Elvia Collado was out to have fun with her boyfriend, Waldo Vargas. She was enjoying her evening off, one of the few she had between working as a counselor for developmentally disabled children and attending college courses at night. She was twenty-two years old and had many happy and successful years to look forward to until her life was cut tragically short.
Vargas chose to get behind the wheel of a car despite the fact that he was intoxicated. As he and Collado drove on the Belt Parkway through Queens, NY, the car reached speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. Vargas lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree. Collado was still alive when paramedics arrived and they rushed her to Jamaica Hospital.
At the hospital, Collado was found to have fractured ribs, lacerations, a disarticulation of the clavicle, and internal bleeding from several injured internal organs. Despite the surgeons best efforts, she passed away around three hours after arriving at the hospital.
In addition to criminal charges, Collado’s mother eventually filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Vargas and was awarded $549,000 by the jury.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits In New York
In the state of New York, five components need to be proven in order for a wrongful death claim to be applicable.
- A death needs to occur.
- The death needs to be caused by the wrongful conduct of the defendant.
- A cause of action needs to have occurred that the deceased would have been able to pursue in court if death hadn’t occurred.
- The deceased needs to be survived by one or more persons who have suffered a loss as a result of the death.
- There need to be damages the estate can recover (an example would be lost wages).
New York does not allow anyone other than the personal representative of the estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the personal representative can seek payment for losses suffered by the deceased heirs or beneficiaries. If the court awards damages then the representative holds those in trust for the surviving family members.
Examples of damages that have been awarded in the state of New York include:
- pain or suffering experienced by the deceased prior to death
- wages or benefits lost by the deceased between the time that deceased was injured and the time of death
- lost inheritance by surviving children
- medical costs incurred that related to the deceased person’s injury or illness which caused the death
- funeral and burial costs
At this time New York does not allow surviving family members to sue for their own pain and suffering, or loss of companionship. New York also enforces a statute of limitations and all wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the deceased person’s death.
Additional Legal Options
In general, the estate of a deceased person may sue for things which the deceased would have been entitled to if they had lived. For example, if the deceased was owed money by another person, the estate could sue to obtain that sum. The person in charge of handling these decisions is usually the Executor, which is a person named in the deceased’s Will to carry out the provisions listed in the Will. It is possible to name more than one Executor. If a lawsuit is won or settled, the executor is then responsible for distributing any monetary sum awarded to the beneficiaries of the estate.
Contact An Attorney Today
Due to the New York statute of limitations, it is critical that the family members of the deceased consult an attorney as quickly as possible. If you have lost a loved one suddenly due to the negligence of another person or by the intentionally harmful acts of another person, contact the experienced attorneys at Banville Law. Our attorneys will guide you through the emotional process of pursuing a lawsuit against those responsible for your loved one’s death.