Unlike murder, which has no time limit in New York, complainants have only a few years after an incident to file wrongful death charges. This discrepancy is due in part to the differing legal consequences -- and burden of proof -- between the criminal and civil convictions.
For some tragedies, the reduced time period affords ample opportunity for claimants to come to terms with the event and file civil charges. For others, such as plane crashes, the uncertainty of extended investigations and the powerful organizations involved may tempt survivors to wait.
Even in context, the 2-year limit on filing charges for wrongful death seems brief. According to the New York State Unified Court System, there are only a handful of categories that have an equal or shorter time limit for initial action, including:
- False imprisonment
- Slander and libel
- Emotional distress
To complicate this, success in wrongful death cases involving commercial aviation accidents could depend on data from investigation teams. The National Transportation Safety Board states on its website that investigations could go on for over a year before technicians are even able to generate a proposal report. What this means to survivors is that they might end up at the end of their statute of limitations without information as to which faulty products, professional negligence or design flaws could be responsible for the death of their loved ones.
The NTSB process often takes a long time. However, investigating teams often provide regular updates on their progress. Furthermore, there could be ways to start the legal and research processes of obtaining compensation for the loss of a loved one -- even before a full incident report is available.