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Defense strategies to wrongful death claims

If the negligence of one party results in the death of another, the family of the victim may file a wrongful death claim. Typically, their goal is to gain compensation for various expenses such as medical bills or funeral costs as well as pain and suffering.

There are many situations where an individual or corporation may face wrongful death claims, such as medical malpractice, car accidents that resulted in a death, and even product defect cases. While it can seem daunting to mount a defense against a claim like this, there are various methods of doing so with success. What are they?

What constitutes wrongful death?

Each state requires its residents to abide by their own wrongful death laws. When defending against a wrongful death suit, one should know what the other party needs to have evidence of in order to prove that their claim is legitimate. In New York, a plaintiff must prove that:

  • A death occurred
  • The negligence of the defendant caused said death
  • The victim is survived by dependents who deal with the loss
  • The surviving party can recover damages

Possible defenses to a wrongful death suit

Depending on a defendant's circumstances there are a few different defense tactics that may work.

  • The defendant did not cause the death: A plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant was the sole cause of the death of the victim. When there is not a direct link between the defendant's actions and the victim's death, there is not substantial proof. If the plaintiff cannot prove causation, they may not have a winning case.
  • Statute of limitations: The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years from the date of the victim's death. If the grieving party files a claim after that time, a judge will likely bar them from proceeding.
  • Damages in wrong death in New York are limited to conscious pain and suffering and pecuniary loss. If there is no proof of conscious pain and suffering, the plaintiff's will have a difficult time proving they are entitled to recover for pain and suffering damages. Further, if there are no economic damages suffered by the decedent's survivors that will also limit damages for wrongful death claims.

Defending against a wrongful death claim, whatever the situation, can be tricky. However, it is not impossible.

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