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What Is Wrongful Death in New York?


When an individual unexpectedly passes away due to a preventable accident caused by another party’s negligence, it is generally considered a wrongful death.

Wrongful Death Under New York Law

By law (New York Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law EPT § 5-4.1), the loss of a loved one is considered wrongful if the following five elements are present in the situation: 

  • An individual died;
  • Their death was caused by another party’s negligence;
  • Had the deceased victim survived, they could have pursued a personal injury lawsuit in court; 
  • The deceased’s surviving family suffered losses as a result of the death. 

If there is evidence of these elements, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate has the ability to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of surviving heirs, beneficiaries, or devisees. 

Leading Causes of Wrongful Death Claims in New York

Many different types of accidents can lead to a wrongful death claim, but some of the most common are:

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents are the most common cause of wrongful deaths and often happen due to driver negligence, such as distracted driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, driving while fatigued, texting and driving, etc. 

Medical Malpractice

When a healthcare provider makes a significant mistake, patients can be severely injured or lose their lives. Many wrongful death claims are filed related to a physician’s misdiagnosis or failure to identify an illness, incorrect treatment, surgical errors, medication errors, birth injuries, and more.

Workplace Accidents

Some occupations, such as construction, are inherently dangerous and lead to a large number of worker fatalities. However, employers are responsible for providing a reasonably safe work environment to prevent serious harm to employees. Therefore, a wrongful death claim can be filed against an employer and/or a third party if their negligence resulted in a worker’s death.

Defective Products

Defective products, especially when in a vehicle, can lead to a wrongful death if the faulty product is responsible for causing the individual’s accident. In those cases, the designer, manufacturer, distributor, seller, or any other party involved in its distribution chain can be liable for wrongful death. 

Other common causes of wrongful deaths include bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, truck accidents, and criminal acts of violence. 

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

The personal representative of the deceased’s estate must have evidence of the following to recover compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Duty of Care: The defendant (at-fault party) owed the deceased a duty of care—for example, if the case involved a car accident, the at-fault driver owed the victim a duty of care to drive safely and obey traffic laws.
  • Breach of Duty: The defendant violated their duty by failing to act with the reasonable care expected of them—for example, if an at-fault driver was driving drunk when they crashed into the victim’s vehicle.
  • Causation: The at-fault party’s breach of their duty of care directly caused the individual’s death. In other words, the victim would not have passed away but for the defendant’s negligent actions. 
  • Damages: The surviving family suffered losses as a result of their loved one’s death. 

If you have recently lost a loved one in a preventable accident, speak to a White Plains wrongful death lawyer to discuss your legal options. They can help you hold the liable party accountable.