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Home / Wrongful Death Lawyers in Ulster County, New York

Wrongful Death Lawyers in Ulster County, New York

The Right Firm For Your Case, Is Right Here!

At Jonna Spilbor Law, I deeply understand how overwhelming and emotionally taxing it can be to file a wrongful death case. My team of caring legal professionals and I, with decades of collective experience, are dedicated to providing you with a clear and comprehensive understanding of your legal rights and options. No matter the complexity of your case or the uniqueness of your requirements, our approach is tailored to meet your specific needs and objectives. As caring and experienced litigators in Ulster County, my team and I are committed to representing your interests tirelessly and achieving the best possible outcome for your case.

In New York, wrongful death is defined as a death caused by the wrongful conduct, negligence, or default of another party. This legal framework permits the filing of a civil action when someone’s actions or failures to act lead to another person’s death. The crucial aspect of these cases is the need to prove that the death would not have happened without the defendant’s wrongful behavior.

Navigating the complexities of a wrongful death claim can feel like an insurmountable challenge, especially during a time of profound grief. But you don’t have to face this journey alone. At Jonna Spilbor Law, my dedicated team and I are here to shoulder this burden with you, guiding you every step of the way with empathy, experience, and unwavering support.

Our commitment is to not only seek the justice your loved one deserves but also to ensure that you are informed and empowered throughout this process. In the pursuit of holding the responsible parties accountable and securing the compensation that reflects the magnitude of your loss, trust in us to be your steadfast advocates. Together, we’ll strive for a resolution that honors the memory of your loved one and brings a measure of peace to your family.

The Types of Accidents Leading to Wrongful Deaths in New York

Wrongful death in New York encompasses a wide array of tragic scenarios, each with its unique complexities and legal challenges. These incidents often leave families grappling with unexpected loss and the pursuit of justice. Recognizing the diverse types of accidents that can lead to wrongful death is crucial for those considering legal action.

Vehicular accidents are a prominent cause of wrongful deaths in New York. Car accidents, often resulting from reckless driving, driving under the influence, or failure to follow traffic laws, lead the list of these tragic circumstances. Due to their massive size and weight, commercial truck accidents frequently result in severe outcomes, with factors like driver fatigue, improper loading, or maintenance failures being common causes. Motorcycle accidents also contribute significantly to the toll, with motorcyclists’ vulnerability on the road being exacerbated by visibility issues, road hazards, or the negligence of other drivers.

Medical malpractice is another leading cause of wrongful death. This category includes surgical errors, such as wrong-site surgery or anesthesia complications, which can have fatal outcomes. Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a severe condition can prevent timely and appropriate treatment, leading to death. Additionally, medication errors, either through incorrect prescriptions or dosages, can be lethal.

Workplace accidents, particularly in the construction industry, are notable contributors to wrongful death cases. These accidents are often due to falls, electrocutions, or equipment-related incidents. Industrial accidents in factories or plants are common and typically involve machinery malfunctions or exposure to hazardous materials.

Product liability is a significant concern, where fatalities can result from using defective products ranging from automotive parts to pharmaceuticals. These defects might stem from flawed design, manufacturing errors, or inadequate warnings.

Premises liability is another area of concern. Slip and fall accidents, caused by conditions like wet floors or poor lighting, can lead to fatal accidents, especially among the elderly. Additionally, inadequate security on a property, leading to incidents such as robberies or assaults, can implicate the property owner in a wrongful death case.

Pedestrian and bicycle accidents are also a cause of concern. Pedestrians struck by vehicles can suffer severe or fatal injuries due to factors like distracted driving, speeding, or failure to yield right of way. Cyclists face risks from road hazards, collisions with vehicles, or dooring incidents.

Recreational accidents, including boating accidents due to operator inexperience, intoxication, or equipment failure, and fatalities in sports or recreational activities due to inadequate supervision, faulty equipment, or lack of safety measures, contribute to the wrongful death toll.

Exposure to hazardous substances or environments, such as chemical exposure in industrial settings or environmental pollution, can lead to fatal illnesses. Extreme weather-related incidents, especially if negligence plays a role in preparedness or response, can also result in fatalities.

Lastly, criminal acts like violent crimes (assault, robbery, or other violent acts) can tragically end in wrongful death, potentially leading to civil claims alongside criminal proceedings.

Each type of accident presents unique legal challenges in wrongful death claims, underscoring the importance of legal experience to handle these complex and emotionally charged cases.

Overview of New York Wrongful Death Laws

New York’s approach to wrongful death claims is grounded in holding parties accountable for their actions that result in the loss of life. This legal structure is designed not just to compensate the family or dependents of the deceased for their loss but also to promote safety and prevent future occurrences by penalizing negligent or intentional behavior. Wrongful death claims in New York are characterized by specific statutory requirements, a defined list of compensable damages, and a clear delineation of who may file these claims.

New York Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 5-4.1 serves as the legal foundation for wrongful death claims in New York. EPTL Section 5-4.1 outlines who may bring a wrongful death claim, the types of recoverable damages, and the timeframe within which the claim must be filed. It emphasizes that the claim is for the benefit of the deceased’s beneficiaries or estate.

Over the years, New York courts have shaped the application of the EPTL through various rulings. Key cases have clarified aspects such as interpreting “pecuniary injuries” and establishing duty and causation. These interpretations are crucial in how wrongful death claims are evaluated and processed.

New York’s Comparative Negligence Rule

Under New York’s comparative negligence rule, the damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit can be reduced based on the deceased’s percentage of fault. This means if the deceased is found partially responsible for the events leading to their death, the total damages will be adjusted accordingly. This doctrine reflects the state’s commitment to a fair and proportional allocation of responsibility.

The Role of the Personal Representative

In New York, a wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. This individual acts on behalf of the beneficiaries and is responsible for managing all aspects of the lawsuit. Their duties include proving the elements of the wrongful death claim, documenting damages, and ensuring that any recovered damages are distributed according to the deceased’s will or the state’s intestacy laws.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim – Eligibility and Plaintiffs

In the state of New York, the initiation of a wrongful death claim is exclusively reserved for the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. This person, who may be named in the deceased’s will or appointed by the court if no will exists, represents the interests of the estate and the deceased’s beneficiaries. It is important to note that individual family members, regardless of their relationship to the deceased, cannot independently file a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, they must work through the designated personal representative to seek legal recourse.

Rights of the Deceased’s Family Members

While family members cannot file the claim themselves, they have specific rights under New York’s wrongful death and state intestacy statutes. These rights include the entitlement to receive compensation for losses incurred due to the death of their loved one. The distribution of any damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit is determined by the decedent’s will or, in the absence of a will, by the state’s intestacy laws. Family members may recover compensation for a variety of losses, including lost income, and loss of companionship caused by the untimely death.

Statute of Limitations for Filing

In New York, there is a critical timeframe within which a wrongful death claim must be filed, known as the statute of limitations. The legal deadline for filing a wrongful death action is two years from the date of the deceased’s death. Failing to file within this period typically results in the forfeiture of the right to sue. However, there are certain exceptions that can affect this deadline, such as cases involving murder or manslaughter, where the statute may be extended. Understanding the exact timing and any potential exceptions is crucial for preserving the rights of the deceased’s estate and family members.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim

Duty of Care

The first element in establishing a wrongful death claim in New York is proving that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. Duty of care refers to the legal obligation to act in a reasonably safe manner to avoid causing harm to others. This duty varies depending on the relationship between the parties and the circumstances of the case. For example, a driver on the road owes a duty of care to other road users, while medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients.

Breach of Duty

Once a duty of care is established, the next step is to demonstrate that the defendant breached this duty. A breach occurs when the defendant fails to meet the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have in a similar situation. This could involve actions like negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. For instance, a driver who is texting while driving and causes a fatal accident has breached their duty of care.


The third element is causation, which requires showing a direct link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the death of the deceased. This means that the wrongful death must directly result from the defendant’s actions or inactions. The plaintiff must prove that the death would not have occurred if not for the defendant’s breach of their duty of care. This can often be the most challenging aspect of a wrongful death claim, as it requires a clear connection between the breach and the fatal outcome.


Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that quantifiable damages resulted from the wrongful death. These damages can include economic losses, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, and loss of income or inheritance, and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering endured by the deceased before death and loss of companionship for the family members. The purpose of damages in a wrongful death claim is to compensate the estate and the family members for their losses resulting from the untimely death.

Types of Recoverable Damages

Economic Damages

  1. Lost Wages and Benefits – This category of damages compensates for the financial loss resulting from the deceased’s untimely death. It includes the present and future earnings the deceased would have provided if they had lived. Calculations consider the deceased’s age, career prospects, and the benefits they might have accrued, such as retirement funds or health insurance.
  2. Medical and Funeral Expenses – These damages cover the costs incurred due to the deceased’s final illness or injury and funeral expenses. They are calculated based on actual expenses and can be substantial, especially if the deceased required significant medical care before their death.

Non-Economic Damages

  1. Pain and Suffering of the Deceased – This refers to the compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased endured from the time of injury until their death. It acknowledges the non-monetary impact of the trauma and agony experienced by the deceased during their final moments.
  2. Loss of Companionship and Consortium – These damages recognize the relational loss suffered by the deceased’s family members. Loss of companionship covers the bereavement and the loss of love, affection, and companionship that family members face. Loss of consortium, typically claimed by a surviving spouse, refers to the loss of marital benefits, including affection, solace, comfort, and sexual relations.

Punitive Damages (in certain cases)

In exceptional circumstances where the defendant’s actions are found to be particularly egregious or malicious, punitive damages may be awarded. These are not meant to compensate the plaintiff but rather to punish the defendant for their wrongful conduct and deter similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages are rare in wrongful death cases in New York and are typically reserved for situations involving intentional harm or gross negligence.

The Process of Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in New York

The process of a wrongful death claim begins with a thorough investigation and gathering of evidence. This step is crucial to establish the foundation of the claim. The deceased’s personal representative, typically with an attorney’s assistance, collects relevant information, such as accident reports, medical records, witness statements, and any other evidence that can substantiate the claim. This phase also involves identifying potential defendants and understanding the circumstances that led to the death. Expert testimonies, such as those from accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals, may also be gathered to strengthen the case.

Filing the Lawsuit

Once sufficient evidence is collected, the next step is filing the lawsuit. This involves preparing and submitting a legal complaint to the appropriate court. The complaint should detail the facts of the case, the parties involved, the legal basis for the claim, and the types of damages sought. Upon filing, the defendant is served with the legal documents and is given a period to respond, typically with an answer or motion to dismiss.

Pre-trial Procedures

After the lawsuit is filed, the case enters the pre-trial phase. This period includes discovery, where both parties exchange information and evidence related to the case. Depositions, interrogatories, and requests for documents are expected during this stage. Before the trial, pre-trial motions may also be filed to resolve legal questions or disputes. This phase is critical for shaping the case that will be presented in court and can sometimes lead to a settlement before the case reaches trial.

Trial and Verdict

If the case proceeds to trial, both sides present their arguments, evidence, and witness testimonies before a judge or jury. The trial allows each party to make their case and the plaintiff to prove the elements of wrongful death. After both sides have presented, the judge or jury deliberates and reaches a verdict. If the plaintiff is successful, the verdict will include the types and amounts of damages to be awarded.

Settlement Considerations

Throughout the process, there is always the possibility of settling the case out of court. Settlement negotiations can occur at any stage and often become more severe after the discovery process reveals the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case. Settlements are agreements where the defendant offers to pay a certain amount of money in exchange for the plaintiff dropping the lawsuit. These agreements can provide a faster resolution and guaranteed compensation without the uncertainties of a trial. However, it’s vital for the plaintiff to weigh the settlement offer against the potential outcome and risks of a trial.

Challenges and Considerations in Wrongful Death Cases

One of the primary challenges in a wrongful death claim is establishing the defendant’s negligence or intentional harm. Proving negligence requires demonstrating that the defendant failed to act with reasonable care, leading to the death. This involves showing a breach of duty, causation, and damages. In cases of intentional harm, the plaintiff must provide evidence that the defendant’s deliberate actions caused the death. Both scenarios demand a robust accumulation of evidence and often expert testimony to establish the link between the defendant’s actions and the death.

Impact of Criminal Proceedings

Concurrent criminal proceedings against the defendant can complicate wrongful death claims. While criminal and civil cases are separate, the outcome of a criminal trial can influence a wrongful death lawsuit. For instance, a criminal conviction can be compelling evidence in a civil case. However, a wrongful death claim can still be successful even if a criminal case does not result in a conviction, as the burden of proof is lower in civil cases (preponderance of the evidence) compared to criminal cases (beyond a reasonable doubt).

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Negotiations with insurance companies are often a critical aspect of wrongful death claims. Insurance providers may be responsible for covering some or all of the damages awarded. However, these companies typically aim to minimize payouts. This necessitates skilled negotiations to ensure fair compensation. The process involves detailed claim preparation, understanding the policy’s coverage limits, and, often, complex discussions regarding the applicability of the insurance to the circumstances of the case.

Complexities in High-Value or High-Profile Cases

High-value or high-profile wrongful death claims introduce additional layers of complexity. These cases may involve significant media attention, influencing public perception and potentially the proceedings. High-value claims, particularly those involving substantial financial compensation or notable individuals, often result in intense legal scrutiny and extensive litigation. This requires strategic planning, management of public relations, and a comprehensive legal approach to navigate the intricacies successfully.

The Role of the Attorney

An attorney plays a pivotal role in wrongful death claims by providing experienced legal advice and representation. They guide the personal representative of the deceased’s estate through the complexities of the legal system. This includes interpreting the law, advising on the merits and challenges of the case, and ensuring compliance with procedural requirements. Attorneys also assist in preparing and filing necessary legal documents and representing the estate in court, providing a vital support system through a challenging legal journey.

Negotiating Settlements

Negotiating settlements is critical to an attorney’s role in wrongful death claims. Lawyers leverage their knowledge and experience to negotiate with defendants and insurance companies to achieve a settlement that adequately compensates for the losses incurred. This process involves strategic discussions, evaluation of settlement offers, and making informed decisions on whether to settle or proceed to trial, always keeping the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries in mind.

Litigation Strategies

Attorneys develop and implement litigation strategies tailored to the specifics of each wrongful death claim. This involves deciding on the approach to proving negligence or intentional harm, choosing which evidence and witnesses to present, and determining the most effective way to articulate the impact of the loss on the family. Effective litigation strategies are crucial for presenting a compelling case in court and maximizing the chances of a favorable outcome.

Support Through the Legal Process

The legal process in wrongful death claims can be lengthy and emotionally taxing for the family members of the deceased. Attorneys provide ongoing support throughout this process, helping clients understand each stage of the case, managing paperwork and deadlines, and offering emotional and moral support. This role is essential in alleviating the stress and burden on the family during a difficult time.

The Importance of Legal Representation in Wrongful Death Claims

Legal representation is crucial in wrongful death claims due to the complex nature of these cases. The attorneys at Jonna Spilbor Law bring a depth of knowledge of New York wrongful death law, experience in dealing with similar cases, and an understanding of the intricacies involved in proving such claims. Our firm is instrumental in navigating the legal system, advocating for the client’s rights, and striving to achieve the best possible outcome, whether through a settlement or a court verdict.

Seek Justice With Our Ulster County Wrongful Death Lawyers

If you and your family are grieving the loss of a loved one due to negligence in New York, I encourage you to reach out to our law firm. As a caring and compassionate attorney, I am here to support you through this challenging time. To schedule your free consultation, please contact me directly at my Ulster County office by calling (845) 485-2529. At Jonna Spilbor Law, my commitment to you is unwavering, and we will work tirelessly to get the possible results from the worst situations.

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