The sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one creates a void that no amount of money could possibly fill. This pain is particularly acute if someone else’s negligence caused the wrongful death. Indeed, to even imply that this substitution is possible is to cheapen the life of the deceased person. However, the fact is that a sudden departure creates economic expenses that a family was usually not prepared to pay. Furthermore, the deceased person would have wanted survivors to move on with their lives as best they could. While financial compensation cannot possibly fill the void, it does give survivors the resources they need at a time when they need them most.
At the Pianko Law Group, our energetic New York wrongful death lawyers hit the ground running in wrongful death claims. We start by evaluating your case to determine your legal options and red-flag possible insurance company defenses. Then, we collect evidence which supports your claim and refutes those defenses. Because we build such a strong foundation, and build it so quickly and thoroughly, we are usually able to obtain maximum compensation in a minimal amount of time.
Many writers use the phrase “accidental death” to describe injury-related fatalities in the United States. Generally, however, these incidents are not accidental. The A-word implies that no one could have done anything to prevent the person’s death. In most cases, that’s not true, usually because of the legal duty of care involved. Some examples include:
Other causes of wrongful death include medical mistakes, such as birth injuries, assaults, and swimming pool drownings. Doctors are normally responsible for malpractice injuries. Property owners are normally legally responsible for assault and swimming pool drowning deaths.
Liability for damages in a wrongful death claim usually depends on the legal duty of care involved. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. A New York wrongful death attorney can often obtain additional punitive damages as well, especially in defective product claims.
Noncommercial motorists usually have a duty of reasonable care. This responsibility is based on the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) which New York children once had to memorize in school. These motorists must drive defensively, obey the formal and informal rules of the road, and avoid accidents when possible.
Commercial drivers, such as bus drivers and Uber drivers, usually have a duty of utmost care. They must take affirmative steps to avoid accidents. Inclement weather driving is a good example of the difference. Noncommercial drivers must slow down when it rains or snows. Arguably, commercial operators must pull over and wait for the weather to clear before they hit the road.
If passengers are in their vehicles, these operators have additional responsibilities. These responsibilities include looking out for passenger safety. For example, these motorists must pick up and drop off passengers in safe locations. A dark cul-de-sac might be a convenient location, but it’s usually not a safe location.
As mentioned, property owners, whether it be residential or commercial property, have a similar duty of care. The level of responsibility usually depends on the relationship between the victim and owner, as follows:
Commercial passengers are invitees. They have permission to be in the car and they provide an economic benefit to the owner. Most commercial shoppers and invited guests are also invitees. The benefit can be tangible or intangible. Owners usually have a duty of reasonable care in these situations.
This category applies if the victim had direct or indirect permission to be on the land, but there was no benefit involved. Children who cut across a neighbor’s yard on their way to school are usually licensees. Since the relationship is more distant, the duty of care is lower. Owners must generally warn licensees about latent (hidden) defects, such as covered wells.
If there was no permission and no benefit, there is generally no duty. Some legal doctrines, like the attractive nuisance rule, protect child trespassers. So, if a child used a neighbor’s swimming pool without permission, the duty of reasonable care usually applies.
Defective product claims are in a special category. Manufacturers are generally strictly liable for injuries their defective products cause. Punitive damages are usually available in these situations because, in most cases, the manufacturer ignores a known risk and puts profits before people.