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  • Writer's pictureBrett Leitner

Understanding Wrongful Death Compromise Proceedings in New York Surrogate's Court

Updated: May 5

Wrongful Death Lawyers In New York

My name is Brett Leitner, and I'm a partner at the New York personal injury and medical malpractice firm, Leitner Varughese Warywoda. As attorneys, we fight for families whose lives have been shattered by the wrongful death of a loved one. While obtaining a settlement brings a sense of closure, the legal process doesn't end there. Before families receive their rightful compensation, there's often a final step required: a wrongful death compromise proceeding in New York's Surrogate's Court.

My hope is to shed light on Wrongful Death Compromise Proceedings - Let's explore what they are, why they're essential in finalizing a wrongful death settlement, and the details that families need to be aware of.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit arises when a person dies due to another individual's or entity's negligence, recklessness, or intentional act. This could involve scenarios such as car accidents, medical malpractice, or workplace injuries. In a successful wrongful death lawsuit, the court may award damages intended to compensate the deceased person's family members for their losses.

These damages can include:

  • Medical expenses incurred before the victim's death

  • Funeral and burial expenses

  • Lost wages and future earnings the deceased would have contributed

  • Loss of companionship, guidance, and support

  • Pain and suffering endured by the deceased prior to death

What is Surrogate's Court?

New York Surrogate's Court - LVLAWNY.COM

New York's Surrogate's Court is a specialized court that handles cases involving wills, estates, and probate matters. It plays a crucial role in wrongful death cases because it oversees the distribution of settlement funds to the deceased person's rightful beneficiaries.

New York Wrongful Death Compromise Proceedings: A Closer Look

A wrongful death compromise proceeding is a court process designed to protect everyone involved and ensure a fair distribution of a wrongful death lawsuit settlement.

Here's what families need to know:

  • Initiation: The proceeding is typically initiated by the executor or administrator of the deceased person's estate. This individual is responsible for managing the deceased's assets and handling their legal affairs.

  • The Petition: The executor or administrator files a petition with the Surrogate's Court, outlining:

    • The circumstances surrounding the death.

    • The names, ages, and relationships of the deceased person's distributees (those entitled to inherit).

    • The proposed settlement amount.

    • A detailed breakdown of how the funds will be allocated, including legal fees, court costs, and any outstanding debts or liens.

Protecting the Interests of All Involved

The Surrogate's Court has a duty to protect the interests of all parties involved in a wrongful death settlement, especially:

  • Distributees: The court ensures that the settlement amount is fair and that the funds are distributed according to New York inheritance laws.

  • Minors: If any distributees are minors, the court will likely appoint a guardian ad litem to represent their interests. The guardian's role is to ensure the minor's portion of the settlement is used for their benefit.

  • Creditors: The court may require proof that any outstanding debts of the deceased, such as medical bills, are paid from the settlement proceeds before distribution to the distributees.

What is a Citation?

In the context of Surrogate's Court: A citation is a formal notice to inform individuals that a legal proceeding has been started that involves them. It serves as a summons, requiring the person to appear in court or take a specific action.

A citation in a wrongful death compromise proceeding typically contains the following information:

  • The name and address of the deceased person.

  • The names and addresses of the distributees (those entitled to inherit).

  • The date, time, and location of the court hearing.

  • The reasons for the hearing (i.e., to petition for approval of a wrongful death settlement).

  • Instructions on how to respond to the citation, such as filing any objections.

Proper service of a citation is vital to ensure that all involved parties are notified and have the opportunity to participate in the proceedings. If a citation cannot be served on a distributee due to unknown whereabouts or other reasons, the petitioner may have to seek guidance from the court on how to proceed.

What is a Waiver?

Sometimes during a wrongful death compromise proceeding, a waiver may be involved. A waiver is a legal document where a person voluntarily gives up a known right or claim. In the context of wrongful death, a distributee might be asked to waive certain rights to receive their portion of the settlement sooner.

It's crucial to remember that waivers are legally binding and have serious consequences.  Anyone asked to sign a waiver should always consult with their attorney to fully understand the implications before doing so.

Hire A New York Wrongful Death Attorney

Navigating a wrongful death compromise proceeding can be complex, especially for families still grieving their loss. An experienced wrongful death attorney can:

  • Help prepare and file the necessary petition with the Surrogate's Court.

  • Explain the legal process and terminology.

  • Negotiate with the liable party's insurance company to reach a fair settlement.

  • Advocate for the best interests of the distributees, particularly minors.

While wrongful death compromise proceedings may seem like an additional hurdle, they are crucial. They offer a layer of protection and ensure a just outcome for all involved. If you've lost a loved one due to someone else's wrongful act, it's essential to seek legal representation. Contact our firm, Leitner Varughese Warywoda, for a free consultation.

email: | voice call: (212) 671-1110 | text message: (212) 671-1110.


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