Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Mar 4, 2020

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Who can, and can’t, bring a New York wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased? According to Ira Slavit, a New York wrongful death lawyer, the answer depends on what the New York Surrogates Court decides.

New York Surrogates Court

Slavit says the question of who can, and can’t, file a wrongful death lawsuit is an “interesting one.” He explained:

We currently have a couple of inquiries regarding wrongful death situations where the decedent may be a citizen of the United States, but through the circumstances, none of his relatives are citizens of the United States. Also, we have a situation where the decedent himself is not a citizen and none of his relatives are citizens, but the NY Surrogates Court indicated that they would consider naming his fiance as the estate’s representative – someone who wasn’t related to him yet. Unfortunately they never got married, but if the out-of-country parents agree, the court would allow the fiance to serve as representative of the estate.

New York Order of Compromise

Slavit says that you have to also bear in mind that even though someone brings a lawsuit, he or she does not get to decide how the money gets distributed. He continued:

At the end of every wrongful death suit, if there’s a settlement or a verdict, you have to go back to Surrogates Court and get an Order of Compromise – which will specify who gets what. There’s a lot of paperwork and it can be very time consuming because there may be some taxing authorities involved as well.

So in the case of the fiance, she might not get any recovery from the suit. She might get something for serving as administratrix of the estate, but she may not end up getting any recovery. It may all go to the parents who don’t reside in, and are not citizens of, the United States.

If your family has suffered a loss, contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to discuss your situation and evaluate your options. You may be entitled to compensation for your loss.