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New York Court Determines Who Receives Wrongful Death Award When Surviving Spouse Passes


A father died as a result of a vehicular accident. His surviving spouse and their two children filed a case for wrongful death against the owners of the vehicle that collided with the father’s car. After the litigation, the owners of the vehicle paid a sum of $182, 717.00 in damages.

By the time that the wrongful death suit was terminated, the surviving spouse had also died. The owners of the vehicles then filed this action to ask the court to determine who should receive the judgment award, and what the sharing should be among those who should receive the judgment award. The owners of the car that collided with the deceased’s car came to court to ask for a final determination as to the sharing of the heirs and surviving relative of the deceased in the proceeds of the wrongful death action.

The estate of the surviving spouse claims that it should receive half of the proceeds from the wrongful death suit as she is entitled to share in her deceased husband’s estate. The two surviving children of the deceased father asked for the disqualification of the surviving spouse’s estate and that the proceeds should instead be shared by them, the two children of the deceased.

The children of the also assert l if the estate of their mother, the surviving spouse of their father should be allowed to share in the proceeds, her share should be substantially reduced as she did not survive until the final determination of the wrongful death case.

A special guardian was appointed for one of the children of the deceased, the son, who was a minor at the time of this action. The son sustained a brain injury from the same car accident that claimed his father’s life although the brain injury did not fully manifest until years later.

The court then reduced the share of the estate of the surviving spouse to only ten per cent of the value of the proceeds. The rest of the proceeds was ordered to be equally distributed to the two children.

One of the children of the deceased, the daughter, appealed the order of the court that distributed the proceeds of the wrongful death suit. She claimed that her share was substantially less than her brother’s. She argues that if the court had not reduced their mother’s share, she would have also participated in her mother’s estate as one of the only two surviving heirs of their mother.

The only question before the Court is whether or not the trial court erred when it reduced the share of the surviving spouse of the deceased which resulted in the minor son of the deceased getting a share larger than that of her sister’s by $50,000.00.

The Court held that even if it were not to put into account the fact of the disability of the minor son. The Court held that the lower court did not act arbitrarily but used a generally accepted legal means of formulating the shares in the proceeds. By applying the Kaiser formula, the minor son’s share became larger than that of her older sister’s, the difference is only $50,000.00 and does not represent such an excessive amount.

Considering that the difference in the shares of the two children of the deceased were a result of the use and reliance by the court on a legally acceptable formula for calculating the relative shares of the heirs, the court cannot be said to have acted arbitrarily or with grave abuse of discretion. Thus, the Court resolved to uphold the finding of the court.

Perhaps you are like the children in this case. Your father died as a result of a car accident and a wrongful death suit was filed which resulted in damages being made payable to you as heirs of your deceased father. You need to be represented by a Nassau Wrongful Death attorney. A Nassau Wrongful Death lawyer can help you present evidence on the proper way of distributing the proceeds of the wrongful death suit. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, their Nassau Wrongful Death attorneys are ready and willing to give you advice and to argue your case in court. Come and visit any of the offices of Stephen Bilkis and Associates and speak to any of their Nassau Wrongful Death lawyers today so that you can be sure that your legally compensable injury can be paid for in damages.

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