In the Matter of Qyra, the Surrogate’s Court considered an issue related to the allocation of the money award in a wrongful death lawsuit. On February 25, 2010, while walking in Central Park, Elmaz Qyra was struck by a tree branch and died. The administrator (personal representative) of his estate filed a lawsuit to recover damages and was awarded a $3,000,000 settlement. The administrator petitioned the Surrogate’s Court to issue a decree allocating the entire settlement to wrongful death. The objectant argued that a portion should be allocated to personal injury.
When someone dies as a result of negligence, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can bring a lawsuit to recover losses suffered by the decedent as well as losses suffered by the decedent’s family. If the lawsuit is successful and money is awarded, the Surrogate’s Court must determine how to allocate the money- to personal injury, to wrongful death, or a combination of both. The manner of allocation determines to whom the money is distributed.
Sums that are allocated to personal injury compensate the injured party—the decedent—for the conscious pain and suffering they suffered because of the negligence. Since the money awarded for personal injury belongs to the decedent, it is considered probate property and is added to their probate estate. Sums that are allocated to wrongful death compensate the decedent’s next of kin for the losses they suffered because of the negligence. That money is distributed directly to the next of kin. It is never a part of the decedent’s estate.