In today's blog post, I discuss the recent passing of Paul Walker and how a wrongful death case would look if he were a resident of New York.
As many people are aware, one of the stars of the Fast and the Furious Movies, Paul Walker, recently passed away in a car accident over the Thanksgiving weekend. Given Mr. Walker's popularity and the manner in which he passed away, I though it worthwhile to provide an analysis of his possible wrongful death case if he were a resident of New York. As many of our readers probably already know, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action in New York is two (2) years so there would be plenty of time for this case to be filed and prosecuted. Assuming that someone from his family would want to file the action, what would be discussed between the family member and an attorney ?
First, the family member would need to form an estate for Mr. Walker for the purpose of prosecuting the wrongful death action through the surrogates court. When we have a situation where a client or a client's family member has passed away from the negligence of another, like a car accident in Paul Walker's case, we will form the estate for the administrator at our initial expense. I consider this expense to be part of the expenses associated with prosecuting a personal injury action similar to filing fees and other expenses. As a result, I would include this service as part of the expenses in a contingency fee arrangement where a client does not have to pay up front. The cost of this expense is taken out of the proceeds of a settlement or verdict.
So what do we do once the estate is formed ? We would collect Mr. Walker's medical records, assuming that he was not pronounced dead at the scene, and his death certificate and we would place the driver of his vehicle, in this case the estate of the driver, on notice of our intention to file a claim. We might also place the vehicle manufacturer, the tire manufacturer and the municipality that owns and maintains the roadway on notice of our intention to file a claim as well. We would also acquire the police accident report and evaluate where there was a recall on the vehicle or the vehicle's tires that are implicated in the accident, and if there was any issue with regard to the roadway.
Why would I look at these matters you may ask ? Well, Paul Walker was only forty years old and he had, until he died, a fairly successful movie career. His work expectancy, according to the table of working life for men, would have been at least another twenty years in the work force and approximately another thirty three years to live. As some of you reading this blog post may already know, the damages in a wrongful death action are the lost earnings that Mr. Walker would have earned over the course of his career. How would this be calculated ? Well, I would contact an economist, retain him or her for the purpose of providing an analysis of Mr. Walker's education, training and experience and to provide a projection of his lost earnings over the next twenty (20) years. The projection of Paul's earnings over the next twenty years is likely to be very significant and, in an effort to maximize the recovery for the estate, I would investigate multiple potential defendants. Why, you may ask ? Mr. Walker's friend Roger Rodas who was driving the vehicle, probably does not have enough insurance to cover the total amount of damages that could be recovered in this type of wrongful death action given Paul Walker's success as an actor.
Also, the news reports indicate that the road on which Mr. Walker's accident occurred was a popular spot for people to speed. In fact, there are reports that the police had cracked down on speeding at this location which would lead one to think that there may be the possibility of municipal liability if there have been prior accidents in the same location and/or complaints to the local municipal agency - like a town that owns and maintains the roadway - about motorists in the location of the accident. There have also been reports that one of the vehicle's tires may have blown before the accident. As a result, an attorney would want an engineer to evaluate the car and the tires to determine if there is a product defect that might be implicated in this action as well. Any responsible attorney would look at all of these issues and assess potential defendants because Mr. Walker's earnings over the next twenty years could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The insurance policy for Mr. Rodas would probably not be sufficient to cover an award this large so any attorney would need to look at other possible defendants to maximize the estate's compensation.
I would also inquiry into whether Paul Walker passed away at the scene or if he was taken to a hospital and passed once reaching the hospital. If Mr. Walker survived until he was treated in a hospital, then a personal injury claim could also be filed and the conscious pain and suffering that he endured until he passed away could also be compensable.
In the end, this is a sad and tragic event. Many significant cases develop out of these circumstances just like the recent Metro North train accident. It is unfortunate and I hope none of our readers have to deal with a situation like this. Unfortunately, incidents like this can and often do occur and that is why there will always be police, doctors, insurance companies and attorneys. I hope our readers do not have to deal with this circumstances. However, if you or someone you know has to deal with issues like these and you or someone you know has been injured or has passed away as a result of someone else's negligence, give us a call at 1.888.900.6204 for a free consultation and a free case evaluation. We regularly appear before the judges in the Courts of the Hudson Valley and we have over 150 combined years of experience. We will give you an objective assessment of your case and we will fight for you.