An allegedly drunk hit-and-run driver fatally struck a man, and seriously injured a woman, near the George Washington Bridge.
The wreck took place just off the GW bridge, close to the intersection of Amsterdam Avenue and West 181st Street. 34-year-old Jonathan Segura then lost control of his BMW and careened into a nearby Ford F-150 before fleeing the scene; he surrendered to authorities a short time thereafter. The two 46-year-old victims – whose names were not released – were both rushed to a nearby hospital.
Mr. Segura was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide, vehicular manslaughter, DUI, and leaving the scene of an accident.
New York’s wrongful death law works a bit differently than the laws in some other states, because it limits damages to “pecuniary” losses. Fortunately for victims, this term is rather broadly defined. Moreover, only the personal representative, and not a family member, may file a wrongful death suit. This restriction typically does not apply, because a family member is generally the legal personal representative.
To file a wrongful death claim, the death must have been caused by a negligent act, like a motor vehicle crash or a failure to properly maintain property. In these cases, pecuniary loss includes a number of items:
- Medical expenses arising from the decedent’s final illness or injury,
- Burial and funeral expenses,
- Lost wages,
- Lost emotional support,
- Pain and suffering endured by the decedent,
- Lost financial support for family members,
- Lost parental nurturing for children, and
- Statutory interest (currently 9 percent).
The plaintiff cannot recover for the grief of family members, on the theory that the action properly belongs to the decedent.
To properly determine damages, an attorney often partners with an expert witness to accurately predict the decedent’s career path and potential future earnings. Obviously, in the case of a young victim, these damages are often substantial. These figures need only be established by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not. So, the jury will generally accept any reasonable estimate in this area.
For prompt assistance in this area, contact experienced personal injury attorneys in Manhattan. Mr. Proner is President of the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers.