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Wrongful Death Arising From Car Accidents

Syracuse Lawyers for Seeking Justice for Victims of Fatal Auto Collisions

Losing a loved one to a car accident is a horribly painful experience. Car accidents occur without warning. Your loved one is not replaceable and your grief may be profound. However, you may have more pragmatic concerns and fears as well. You may be worried about how you’ll pay medical bills, rent, and other expenses. In some cases, it may be appropriate to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the party at fault for the car accident. These kinds of lawsuits can be complicated, and it is advisable to hire a Syracuse wrongful death attorney who understands how to present your case in court.

Wrongful Death Arising From Car Accidents

The New York Estates, Powers and Trust Laws govern wrongful death lawsuits. Under section 5-4.1, a personal representative of the decedent’s estate is allowed to bring a lawsuit for a default, neglect, or wrongful act leading to the decedent’s death.

Many car accidents are the result of driver negligence rather than default or a wrongful act. To prevail in a lawsuit alleging negligence, you will need to be able to show: (1) the other driver owed the decedent a duty of care, (2) breach of the duty of care, (3) causation, and (4) damages. Breaches of the duty of care could include speeding, weaving, drunk driving, texting while driving, driving aggressively, tailgating, and other acts that show a failure to use reasonable care.

Pecuniary Losses

Unlike some other states, New York only allows the recovery of pecuniary losses that are proven. The decedent’s representative must therefore show pecuniary losses in order to recover damages in a wrongful death action arising from a car accident. Pecuniary losses cover a broader category of damages than may be apparent at first. For example, under this rule, next of kin can recover for the loss of the decedent’s earnings. A spouse can recover loss of services. Children can recover for the loss of parental guidance and care. However, there are restrictions that apply when you are seeking pecuniary damages, and it’s important to retain an attorney who knows the parameters for this type of damages. Note that you can’t recover for your pain and suffering for the loss of a loved one in a wrongful death case.

In some situations, it is necessary to hire economists or financial analysts to examine what the claimants’ losses were and how much they were. These experts can also explore what future pecuniary losses will be suffered by survivors.

Comparative Negligence

New York follows a pure comparative negligence rule. This means that when another driver is completely to blame for a loved one’s death, it may be possible to recover 100% of your losses from the defendant. However, the other driver may claim that the decedent (your loved one) was partially or fully to blame for the loss. If he or she can prove your loved one’s comparative negligence, your damages will be reduced by an amount equal to his or her percentage of fault. You can recover even if the jury decides the decedent was more responsible for the accident than the other driver was. Claims adjustors for the at fault driver know this, which means they will look closely at the accident and their own insured’s account of what happened to figure out if there’s a way to show that the decedent was at fault for the accident. This is one reason it’s wise to talk to an experienced lawyer right away if you lose a loved one in a car accident.

Medical Malpractice

There are tragic, unfortunate cases in which a loved one is involved in a car accident, and then goes the hospital and loses their life due to medical malpractice. In that situation, your legal options are complicated. The decedent wouldn’t have been at the hospital if not for the car accident, but it’s still possible that the decedent would have survived had the health care provider had abided by the professional standard of care. Usually if the driver was at fault for the accident, he would be liable for all the injuries legally caused by his actions. But the first tortfeasor won’t be liable for negligent acts that supersede his own. When a patient dies due to malpractice, the malpractice may be a superseding cause. Each case is different, and the circumstances will dictate whether a doctor or hospital will be liable for wrongful death in a scenario like this.

In order to establish a health care provider’s liability, you’ll need to show: (1) the health care provider owed a duty of professional care, (2) deviation from the professional duty of care, (3) causation, and (4) damages.

Consult an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney in Syracuse

If your loved one suffered a wrongful death arising from a car accident in Syracuse, we may be able to help. DeFrancisco & Falgiatano handles personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits in Syracuse, Rochester, and throughout Upstate New York, including in areas such as Canandaigua, Binghamton, Ithaca, Cooperstown, Lyons, Elmira, Wampsville, Auburn, Herkimer, Utica, Oneida, Oswego, Watertown, and Lowville. Please call us at 315-479-9000 or contact us via our online form to learn more.

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