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Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in New York: Unique Aspects and Key Considerations

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Peter J. Gregory
Oct 30, 2023
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Losing a loved one is an incredibly painful experience, and when that loss is due to someone else's negligence or wrongful act, it adds another layer of complexity to the grieving process. In New York State, a wrongful death claim provides a legal avenue for surviving family members to seek financial compensation and justice for their loss. However, navigating the legal landscape can be challenging without a clear understanding of the unique aspects of wrongful death claims in New York. In this article, we will explore some key elements that differentiate wrongful death claims in the state, as well as important considerations for those seeking justice for their loved one.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?

In New York, only specific individuals are eligible to file a wrongful death claim. These include:

  • Distributees: These are individuals who have a direct legal right to the decedent's estate. This typically includes the surviving spouse, children, and parents.
  • Dependents: If the decedent did not leave behind any distributees, individuals who were financially dependent on the deceased person may have the right to file a claim.
  • Representatives of the Estate: If none of the above parties exist, the personal representative or executor of the deceased's estate may bring forth the claim.

Statute of Limitations

It's crucial to be aware of the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in New York. Generally, the claim must be filed within two (2) years from the date of the decedent's passing. If you miss that deadline, your claim could be forever barred. However, the deadlines may vary, especially in cases involving governmental entities.  

Damages Available in Wrongful Death Claims

New York law provides for various types of damages in wrongful death claims. These may include:

  • funeral and burial expenses
  • reasonable health care expenses related to the deceased person's final injury or illness
  • any financial support the deceased would have contributed to the family
  • the value of support and services the deceased would have provided to the family
  • the value of parental nurturing, care, and guidance to surviving children
  • survivors' lost inheritance, and 
  • interest on the damages award, calculated from the date of death.

Notably, New York State does not allow surviving family members to recover their own damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of companionship. Proposed legislation, known as "The Grieving Families Act" would allow surviving close family members to sue for grief or anguish and loss of love -- not just for financial loss, but it has yet to be enacted. Our personal injury attorneys continue to monitor the progress of the potential new law. 

Survival Actions

In addition to a wrongful death claim, New York allows for what is known as a "survival action." This is a legal claim that the decedent's estate can bring on behalf of the deceased individual to recover damages for physical and emotional pain, suffering, and other losses they experienced prior to their passing, including potential fear of impending death. 

Comparative Negligence

New York follows a comparative negligence system, which means that if the decedent is found to be partially at fault for their own death, the damages awarded may be reduced proportionally. It is vital to understand how this concept can impact the outcome of a wrongful death claim.

Wrongful Death in Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death in New York require careful consideration. They involve specific procedural requirements, including obtaining a "certificate of merit" from a qualified medical expert to validate the claim's legitimacy before filing a court action. Additionally, there are strict timelines for filing and serving notices in medical malpractice cases.


Navigating the legal complexities of a wrongful death claim in New York can be a daunting task, especially during a time of grief. Seeking the guidance of an experienced attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases is essential. They can provide invaluable support and expertise to help you navigate the unique aspects of New York's wrongful death laws and seek the justice and compensation your loved one deserves. Remember, you do not have to go through this process alone—legal professionals are here to help you every step of the way.

If you or a loved one perished due to to the negligence of another person, business or organization, an experienced personal injury attorney can help. It is important to consult with a lawyer early to investigate your options, and preserve crucial evidence.  For assistance with these matters, please contact us to learn more.

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About the author: Peter J. Gregory is a partner with MCCM Personal Injury Lawyers in Rochester, NY.  He is a trial lawyer with extensive experience resolving disputes in state and federal trial courts. As a personal injury lawyer, Gregory focuses on advising clients who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of others. Please feel free to contact him directly at or (585) 512-3506.

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.

About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.