Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Car Accident?

wrongful death claims, medical and funeral expenses

According to the National Safety Council, nearly 46,000 people in the United States lost their lives due to car accidents in 2022. Losing a loved one is a painful experience, and it can be even more traumatizing when someone else’s negligence causes their death. 

In such situations, you or your family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes the deceased’s parents, spouse and children, and personal representative for the decedent’s estate.

If you are one of the eligible family members, you have the right to seek several damages on behalf of the deceased. However, it’s important to note that not everyone in the family is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. That’s why it is recommended to reach out to a personal injury lawyer and get your case reviewed. 

Can the Deceased’s Spouse File a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident?

If you experience the loss of your spouse in a fatal car crash, you have the option to initiate a wrongful death claim. In most states, including New York, the surviving spouse has the right to seek compensation for his/her loss due to the wrongful death of their partner. This could include funeral expenses, medical expenses, loss of financial support, and pain and suffering. Moreover, if the deceased had children under 18, you can also file the claim on their behalf.

Remember that filing a claim immediately is essential, as there are often time limits for such claims. At Uptown Injury Law, PLLC,  our car accident attorney can help you understand your filing deadlines, legal options, and requirements.

Who Else Can File a Wrongful Death Claim? 

If you lose a loved one in a car accident, you, as a family member or dependent, such as a child, parent, or putative spouse, have the option to file a wrongful death claim. 

However, it’s essential to know that only legal representatives or executors of the deceased’s estate are eligible to start a claim on behalf of the estate and surviving family members. If the deceased didn’t leave a will, the court may select someone to represent the estate and take legal action.

The process for seeking compensation varies from state to state. For instance, in places like New York City, priority is given to the closest surviving family member, typically spouses and children. Some states broaden this right to include parents, siblings, and distant relatives.

Conversely, there may be multiple claims if you’re in a state without restrictions on who can make a wrongful death claim. This includes claims from distant family members who relied on the deceased for financial support. In these cases, the court might consolidate these claims to streamline the process.

What Damages Can You Pursue in a Wrongful Death Case?

Through wrongful death claims, you can seek compensation for emotional and financial losses you’ve endured. These damages may be available to you from the responsible party, such as:

Economic Damages

The economic damages, also known as tangible/financial damages, may include the following:

  • Medical Bills: You can recover the medical expenses incurred due to the severe injuries to the deceased in the fatal car accident. This includes hospital bills, ambulance fees, prescription drugs, medical equipment, and other related expenses.
  • Lost Wages: Seek financial compensation for the income your deceased loved one would have earned. This includes the wages they would have earned from the accident until their estimated retirement age. It may also include bonuses, promotions, or other benefits they would have received during that time.
  • Loss of Income Opportunity: Account for the future earnings your loved one would have contributed to your family. This includes any additional income they would have earned through investments, business ventures, or other career opportunities over their lifetime.
  • Funeral Costs: You can also receive reimbursement for the expenses associated with the funeral of your loved one. This includes the cost of the funeral service, burial or cremation, casket or urn, transportation, flowers, and any other related expenses.

These tangible damages are relatively straightforward to calculate, as they involve specific financial costs related to your loved one’s death.

Non-economic Damages

In addition to economic damages, it’s worth noting that you can also receive compensation for non-economic damages. These can include a wide range of losses, such as:

  • Physical Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced before passing. This may include compensation for the pain your loved one experienced during and after the treatment till his/her passing.
  • Mental Anguish: It refers to the emotional pain, suffering, and distress that you and your family may experience as a result of the wrongful death of a loved one. It can manifest in various forms, such as depression, anxiety, anger, disbelief, and guilt. Such intense emotions can be overwhelming and require professional support and resources.
  • Loss of Companionship or Care: Compensation for the void left by your loved one’s absence. You may also be able to seek damages for the loss of your loved one’s support and guidance. This includes compensation for the loss of household services, such as cooking, cleaning, and childcare, as well as the loss of guidance and advice that your loved one provided.

In most cases, you can seek punitive damages to hold the at-fault driver accountable for their recklessness, such as drunk driving behavior. These damages serve as a deterrent against future reckless behavior and aim to seek justice for the harm caused.

How Is Negligence Established in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In a fatal car accident, you establish negligence by proving that the responsible party failed to exercise reasonable care and caused the victim’s death. To prove negligence, consider the key elements, such as:

  1. Breach of Duty: Recognize instances where the at-fault driver failed to meet the driving rules, such as driving under the influence. This constitutes a breach of their duty.
  2. Causation: Establish a direct link between the responsible party’s negligent actions and the victim’s death. For example, if the responsible party was speeding and caused a fatal collision, a clear connection exists between their negligence and the wrongful death of your loved one.
  3. Damages: Have a clear understanding of the damages that your family has experienced as a result of the death. This includes tangible losses such as medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and the intangible loss of companionship.

To win a wrongful death case related to a car accident, you need strong evidence. This includes eyewitness accounts, expert opinions, and relevant documents. 

Your lawyer might argue that the other driver caused the accident. This could be due to dangerous behaviors like not signaling, following too closely, or driving an unsafe vehicle. 

Moreover, vehicle-related issues contributing to the accident may also be the driver’s fault, such as driving on worn-out tires or not securing items properly. Focusing on all these details could strengthen your case.

Through a wrongful death lawsuit, your attorney will hold the responsible driver or another liable party responsible for the accident and resulting damages.

How Plaintiffs Must Distribute the Settlement?

When you receive a settlement amount, it’s crucial to prioritize outstanding debts related to the case. These debts can include legal fees and medical bills. Prioritizing these debts ensures that everyone involved in the resolution gets fair compensation.

Once you have settled your debts, you can distribute the remaining funds among the eligible family members. The amount distributed is typically divided based on the extent of each person’s losses or injuries. This approach ensures that your family members are compensated based on their loss and suffering.

However, it’s essential to recognize that the specific procedures can vary based on the state laws where the wrongful death case occurs. In New York, you may need to distribute the settlement based on the following:

Determining Recipients: You should decide among family members who should receive compensation and how much amount each should receive.

Spousal and Children’s Entitlement: Some guidelines in New York may specify that only the spouses and children of the deceased are eligible to get the settlement award.

Dependency-Based Compensation: Compensation distribution might be based on the level of dependency that family members had on the deceased.

Court Involvement: In cases where family members cannot agree, the court may review and resolve the case. 

Court-Driven Allocation: New York law may empower the court to decide who benefits from the settlement and the corresponding amounts.

What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

There is a limited timeframe for filing a wrongful death claim. In New York, you have two years to file or submit a wrongful death lawsuit from the date of death.

Remember, the statute of limitations can vary for each case, and it’s never safe to assume that the time limit will be extended. 

However, if you’re uncertain about your situation, contact a wrongful death lawyer who can provide you with the proper guidance and support. Don’t miss your chance to seek justice for your loved one.

Important Exceptions to the Two-Year Limit

There are exceptions to the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases, such as:

  1. Sole Beneficiary is a Minor: If you are the sole beneficiary of a wrongful death claim and are under 18, New York law allows for tolling or delay of the claim. You can file the claim when you turn 18 or when a legal guardian is appointed to take legal action. However, the two-year limit is still applicable if you were already appointed a parent or guardian at the time of the deceased’s passing.
  2. Defendant Facing a Criminal Case: If the at-fault driver is already facing a criminal lawsuit, you have one year from the conclusion of the criminal case to sue for wrongful death. This extension lessens the legal complications when parallel criminal and civil cases are involved.

What Factors Influence a Wrongful Death Claim?

The aftermath of a car accident can be emotionally draining, especially when seeking compensation for a wrongful death. There is no predetermined amount for such claims. Instead, several factors should be considered while calculating fair compensation, such as:

The Age of Your Loved One

Consider the age of the person who has passed away. Remember that the lost future earnings differ significantly between a young person and someone close to retirement age.

Assess Insurance and Retirement Benefits

Take into account the amount of life insurance your loved one had. Typically, the insurance payout is subtracted from the total financial damages. Retirement benefits, such as pensions, are also considered, as they contribute to your income and may replace lost wages.

Evaluate the Role of Your Loved One as the Household Provider

Consider whether your loved one was the sole provider for your household. The income of the surviving spouse plays a significant role. If you, as a surviving spouse, earn enough to support the family, the compensation of your deceased husband’s salary will be less. 

Man mourning the death of a loved one in an accident due to a negligent party

Understand the Grieving Process and Relationship

Recognize that the grieving process is directly related to the relationship between the deceased and the family members. A positive relationship and the influence your loved one had on family members can lead to fair compensation. Additionally, the jury’s view of the responsible party’s negligence also matters.

Are Wrongful Death Cases Civil or Criminal?

Wrongful death cases can be both civil and criminal. In most cases, wrongful death is seen as a civil matter. It means that the family of the deceased can sue the at-fault party for compensation to cover medical bills, funeral expenses, and the emotional toll of the death.

However, if the death results from criminal conduct, such as reckless driving or medical malpractice, criminal charges are filed against the responsible driver, and the government takes legal action. If found guilty, the accused may face fines, probation, or imprisonment. 

Remember that a criminal case doesn’t guarantee compensation for the family. So, a civil wrongful death lawsuit remains a separate legal avenue to pursue compensation.

Seek Compensation for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit – Consult Uptown Injury!

At Uptown Injury Law Firm, PLLC, we understand the devastating consequences of car accidents, mainly when they result in losing a loved one. That’s why we specialize in handling wrongful death cases arising from car accidents. We are here to support you through this heart-wrenching situation.

With our 15 years of proven track record of securing maximum compensation, you can trust our lawyers to fight for your rights. Moreover, our firm’s “No Fee Unless You Win” policy ensures that you can pursue your car accident claim with peace of mind, knowing that financial worries won’t stand in the way of your pursuit of justice.

Contact us online or call us today at 917-540-8728 to schedule your FREE consultation.


What Is an Average Wrongful Death Settlement?

The average wrongful death settlement can vary based on several factors. Depending on the accident circumstances, settlements can be around thousand to million dollars. It is essential to consult a seasoned attorney to navigate the legal process and get the compensation you deserve.

Can You File a Wrongful Death Case Against a Drunk Driver?

Yes, you can make a wrongful death lawsuit against a drunk driver who caused the fatal car crash. The lawsuit can help you seek justice and recover damages such as medical costs, loss of income, and funeral expenses.

Can a Surviving Family Member Sue for the Wrongful Death of a Loved One?

Yes, the family member of the deceased can sue for wrongful death if it occurred due to someone’s negligence. This lawsuit allows the family members to seek financial compensation for expenses and emotional loss resulting from the tragic event.

Can You Recover Wrongful Death Damages From the Insurance Company?

Yes, you or the other surviving family members can recover wrongful death damages from an insurance company. However, the compensation varies depending on each case. Thus, an experienced attorney can guide you through the legal process and help you cover the damages.

Can Wrongful Death Lawsuits Provide Additional Compensation for Suffering?

Yes, you can receive compensation for the emotional suffering and pain experienced due to the wrongful death of your loved one. It is often referred to as pain and suffering damages. It includes compensation for the depression, anxiety, anger, disbelief, and guilt you and your family may face due to your loved one’s passing.

What if the Negligent Party’s Insurance Coverage Is Not Enough?

If the negligent party’s insurance coverage is not enough to cover the damages in a wrongful death case, there are a few options that your attorney may explore. Firstly, they may review the responsible party’s other assets to see if they can be used to cover the damages. Secondly, they may file for underinsured coverage. If neither of these options is viable, your attorney may initiate a wrongful death claim in court.

What Can I Expect During a Wrongful Death Suit in Court?

During a wrongful death lawsuit in court, you can expect legal proceedings such as presenting evidence, witness testimonies, and arguments from both sides. Your attorney will represent your interests and strive to secure fair compensation for your loss.

What Is the Probate Court’s Role in a Wrongful Death Case?

In a wrongful death case, the probate court oversees the management of the deceased person’s estate. This includes ensuring that any settlement money awarded for the wrongful death is distributed fairly among the surviving loved ones. Additionally, the probate court checks the distribution of the deceased’s assets and settlement of debts.


Kyle Newman Founder and Senior Trial Lawyer at Uptown Injury Law New York's Best Personal Injury Medical Malpractice and Accident Law firm New York's Top Trial Lawyers
Kyle Newman Founder and Senior Trial Lawyer at Uptown Injury Law New York's Best Personal Injury Medical Malpractice and Accident Law firm New York's Top Trial Lawyers

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