When someone makes a mistake, acts negligently or otherwise causes a death, there may be criminal consequences. Sometimes, however, there isn’t enough evidence for a conviction. The criminal courts have a high standard for conviction, which requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. That can mean that someone whose neglect, willful wrongdoing or mistake cost another’s life won’t face criminal penalties for what happened.
Thankfully, surviving members of the victim’s family can still hold that person accountable. New York law provides for compensation via a wrongful death lawsuit. You can gather evidence about the event leading to the death and records about the financial impact of the death, including information about lost income, documentation of medical and funeral expenses and even proof of secondary losses, like the cost of grief counseling.
You only have two years to file your wrongful death claim
Most crimes have a statute of limitations that apply. After a certain amount of time goes by, the state can no longer prosecute for the crime. Although a wrongful death claim isn’t a prosecution, there is still a statute of limitations that applies.
The surviving family members can only file a claim for wrongful death for two years after the date of death. Once that time elapses, you lose any ability to hold the person responsible financially and legally accountable for the death of your loved one. You should take steps as soon as possible to file your claim and protect your family’s right to justice and compensation after a wrongful death.
A more reasonable standard for evidence in civil suits
While the prosecutor may not have felt there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the person who caused a death, the standards are different for civil court. In civil court, there only needs to be a preponderance of evidence that the defendant was responsible. It can be much simpler to prove a wrongful death case in civil court than it is to obtain a successful conviction in the criminal courts.
Your family likely wants justice for the loss you’ve experienced. Chances are, you aren’t as worried about money as you are about living the rest of your life without someone you loved. No form of justice can bring back those lost to tragic accidents and other forms of wrongful death. However, the surviving family may receive some closure and a sense of closure from winning a wrongful death case.
The person who caused the death of your loved one will end up held civilly responsible for doing so. In turn, your family may be awarded compensation, based on the circumstances of the death. Although that money won’t change what happened, paying it will punish the defendant and benefit your family.