Wrongful Death Lawsuits: Steps To Take

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The wrongful death of any individual is a tragic event, especially because the causes usually could have been avoided. 

If you have lost a loved one to wrongful death, you were probably overcome with feelings of sadness, despair, and anger at whoever could have been responsible for the incident. 

While no amount of money can replace a family member or close relative, you are entitled to certain rights under the law. Whoever was the cause of the death should be held responsible for their actions. 

To receive the compensation you and your family deserve, you need to file a lawsuit against a responsible party. 

In a recent wrongful death case, our lawyers at Schwartzapfel® Lawyers P.C. were able to secure $265 million in compensation after a victim was killed in a train wreck. 

We can help you receive the compensation you are entitled to as well as guide you through the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Common Causes of Wrongful Death

No matter the cause, wrongful death is difficult to deal with. However, before you can file a wrongful death lawsuit, you must determine the cause of wrongful death and the circumstances surrounding its occurrence. 

This information will be very important later on in the process. It can help prove eligibility for compensation, liability for the incident, as well as the amount you can receive in settlements. 

While the causes of wrongful death are limitless, some are more common than others. The following items are some of the most prevalent causes of wrongful death in New York. 

Auto Crashes

Auto and motor vehicle crashes are a significant cause of wrongful death in New York, accounting for more than 40,000 cases a year. 

Car wrecks that lead to wrongful death cases are typically caused by driver errors such as distracted driving or impaired driving. In other cases involving commercial vehicles, crashes occur due to company malpractice or lack of maintenance of vehicles. 

Injuries from Falls

While injuries from falls are usually not fatal, they can lead to death depending on how and where they occur. They are the cause of more than 35,000 wrongful death cases a year. 

Many times falls can occur on construction sites or other similar elevated worksites. In such cases, site managers or property owners may be held responsible for incidents that occur. 

Unintentional Poisoning

In New York, unintentional poisoning is responsible for more than 65,000 cases of wrongful death a year, making it one of the leading causes of wrongful death in New York state. 

Unintentional poisoning typically occurs due to drug overdoses, prescription medicine errors, or harmful medication side effects. It can also occur due to pesticide and carbon monoxide exposure. In some of these cases, doctors and medical officials may be held responsible. 

Negligent Wrongful Death

No matter the cause, unintentional wrongful deaths are typically a result of the negligence or malpractice of a responsible party. 

Simply put, negligence and malpractice occur when an individual or group of individuals does not maintain their duties in the way they are required to. 

Negligence and malpractice can occur in any industry. However, medical officials and construction site managers, as well as other employers, are the most common agents of negligence and malpractice. 

Intentional Wrongful Death

While most wrongful death cases are a result of negligence or malpractice, some wrongful deaths are intentional. 

While an intentional wrongful fatality can include homicide or manslaughter, it can also be caused by assault, defamation, or false imprisonment. A wrongful death case will be a civil action separate from any ongoing criminal case.

The bottom line is that whoever was responsible for the wrongful death had reasons for harming or hurting the victim. 

Step #1: Finding a Lawyer

While some people may not think that hiring a lawyer for your wrongful death case is necessary, a lawyer can be a valuable asset, especially in relieving pressure from a mourning family. 

Wrongful death can be hard to prove. Not only that, but it is very unlikely that a responsible party will easily admit to being the cause of an incident. To avoid dealing with opposition to your case, you will need legal help for your case. 

Here are just a few ways through which a wrongful death lawyer can help you and your family. If you want to get in contact with an experienced lawyer with a demonstrated history in wrongful death cases, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-800-966-4999. 

Access to Resources and Legal Knowledge

Unless you are a lawyer, you are probably not familiar with the details and proceedings of a wrongful death case. Many people who file wrongful death and personal injury cases are also unaware of all the rights they are entitled to. 

Because an opposing party will not inform you of your rights in a legal proceeding, you need someone who will be on your side and explain your rights and eligibility. 

When filing a lawsuit, you will need a lot of information to back up your claims. Lawyers have resources through which they can access information and investigate events that you may not have. 

Gathers and Secure Evidence

Because lawyers have access to resources, they gather documents and evidence for your case. It is their job to make sure that their plaintiffs’ claims are substantiated with enough evidence to prove fault. 

This is especially important for proving wrongful death and determining liability. Your lawyer can request documents and records that you may not be able to without a court order. 

Once evidence is gathered, your lawyer assesses all of the evidence and compiles arguments for your case. 

Provides Support

No one who has lost a loved one wants to deal with legal proceedings in the aftermath. You and our family deserve time to mourn and heal from the incident. 

Your lawyer should be someone you trust. They should also be dedicated to the case, ensuring favorable results. A good lawyer can help you feel supported and taken care of through such a difficult time and reassure you that your rights will be secured. 

Step #2: Proving Wrongful Death

Whether or not the circumstances surrounding a wrongful death are clear, you and your lawyer will need to prove that a wrongful death occurred to file a lawsuit and qualify for compensation. 

To prove wrongful death, you and your lawyer have to consider the following elements: 

  • Safety rule: You and your lawyer must prove that the parties responsible for the death had a responsibility to follow a safety rule.

For example: There are safety rules of the road that fellow drivers on the road, in complying with traffic rules, must follow. 

  • Breaking of a safety rule: After establishing a safety rule, a lawyer can help you prove that the responsible parties broke that rule, which resulted in the wrongful death. 

In a car wreck, your lawyer would have to prove that an opposing party was at fault for the incident crash and, therefore, the damages that followed. 

  • Causation: A lawyer would have to prove that the safety rule violation caused the death of an individual.  

Step #3: Filing a Lawsuit

Once your lawyer has enough evidence proving that wrongful death occurred and determining the responsible parties behind the death, you are now ready to file your lawsuit. 

Before you file a lawsuit, there are a few rules and regulations that you should keep in mind: 

  • Only a decedent’s surviving spouse, children, the parent of the decedent, or pre-established personal relative can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The abilities of relatives such as adult children, parents, grown siblings, and extended family members such as grandparents or grandchildren vary from state to state.
  • New York State has a two-year statute of limitations for filing wrongful death lawsuits, which means that you have to file your claim within two years of a wrongful death incident. If a municipality is involved, the claim must be filed within 90 days.
  • To qualify as a wrongful death case, the incident should have occurred due to wrongful acts such as medical malpractice, negligence or neglect, recklessness, a breach in duty of care, or intentional causes. 
  • You may not be able to file your wrongful death claim if there is not enough to prove wrongful death or liability or if the incident occurred due to an accident in which no one can be held responsible. 

In regards to the qualifications and eligibility of your wrongful death action, it is always best to consult with a lawyer, as every case is different. 

When a lawsuit is ready to be filed, your lawyer will present all the necessary documentation in court, and the opposing party will have a chance to look over the evidence you have gathered. 

From here, both your lawyer and the opposing legal team will review and verify the shared evidence and prepare to decide on a settlement. 

Step #4: Negotiating a Settlement

Once your lawsuit has been filed and received by the opposing party, your lawyer will determine how much compensation you are eligible for. 

Determining Case Value

The value of your case is what will determine how much compensation you are eligible to receive. Your lawyer will determine this amount by assessing the following types of damages: 

  • Funeral expenses or burial expenses that were covered by the victim’s surviving family members. 
  • Loss of financial support if the victim of the wrongful death was financially responsible for any dependents. 
  • Loss of Parental Guidance
  • Loss of Household Services
  • Medical expenses, including those for surgeries, treatments, medication, and transportation for the injuries that led to the victim’s death. 
  • Any pain or suffering that the victim may have experienced before his or her death. 
  • Pre-impact terror and fear of impending death

While a variety of economic and non-economic damages go into determining case value, the pain and suffering of survivors following the loss cannot be used to determine case value or compensation. However, loss of companionship, loss of support, and loss of consortium may factor into some cases.

After the value of your case is determined, your lawyer will discuss a settlement with the defendant’s legal team and work to reach an agreement. 

The value of your case may not be the same as the amount of compensation you receive. This is because the value of your case is still subject to review by the opposing party. 

If you and your lawyer or the opposing legal team are not satisfied with the offers made for a settlement, then the case will most likely go to trial. 

If this occurs, your lawyer will represent the evidence in court, and a decision on your settlement will be made by the judge and the jury. 


While the death of a loved one is an undoubtedly difficult event to experience, you are not alone. 

With the help and support of the right law firm, you can file a lawsuit to secure your rights and hold those who caused the wrongful death responsible. 

At Schwartzapfel® Lawyers P.C., we can provide you with a dedicated and experienced wrongful death attorney to offer support and guidance through this difficult time. 

You can schedule a free constitution with one of our lawyers to learn more. Call us at 1-800-966-4999 to get started. 



Picture of America Poisoning Fact Sheet | CDC 

5 Top Benefits Of Hiring A Wrongful Death Attorney  | Medicalopedia

Negligence | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute 

Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C.
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