When a loved one slips into a coma, family members are forced to make heart-wrenching decisions about their future. They may worry that their loved one may never wake up and be resigned to a vegetative state. On top of that, they may also be left with years of medical bills and expenses just to keep their loved one alive.
Dealing with all of these things can be incredibly difficult, but if your loved one was injured due to someone else’s negligence, then you may be able to file a personal injury claim on his or her behalf. But first, you have to fulfill certain legal obligations.
Why Waiting to File May Be a Mistake
Comas are often the result of a serious traumatic brain injury and come in many shapes and sizes. Some are only shallow, meaning the patient may be able to partially respond to stimuli, such as sounds or pain. Others resign the patient to a deep sleep, and the patient may even require medical equipment to breathe. While medication, surgery, and time can all play a role in how long the patient will remain in a coma, there is a possibility that he or she may never wake up.
In situations where a coma patient does recover, he may be able to hold the liable party responsible for his initial brain injury in a personal injury claim. Typically, accident victims have up to three years from the date of their injury to file a claim, but a coma patient may have his claim “tolled” or delayed until he is woken up.
For family members, waiting until a loved one wakes up might be a mistake, however. Medical bills can quickly add up for a coma, and you may need to make quick decisions about your loved one’s future. Filing a personal injury claim might be your best option, but only if you have the legal authority to pursue a claim.
Who Is Allowed to File a Claim?
Outside of the accident victim, anyone who has the power of attorney or conservatorship can file a claim on behalf of a victim in a coma. Power of attorney is typically assigned when someone knows they will be unable to make informed decisions in the future, such as if they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Power of attorney can be either medical or financial. In order to file a personal injury claim on behalf of a coma patient, you will need to have financial power of attorney, which grants you the authority to make legal decisions for the patient.
If you do not have power of attorney, your next option is conservatorship. You must file a petition for conservatorship, which must be granted by a New York judge. This will give you the right to file a claim for your loved one. When requesting conservatorship, you will need to demonstrate that you can make informed decisions for your loved one and will act in their best interest. If conservatorship is granted, then you will also need to request the court’s permission to file a claim.
Going through this complex legal process on your own can be difficult, which is why you should not hesitate to contact a New York personal injury lawyer at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP. Our team of compassionate and thorough attorneys can explain all of your options and represent you throughout the claim process. Not only can we advocate for you to receive conservatorship from a judge, but we can also investigate your case and demand full compensation for your loved one’s injuries. If your loved one is in a coma due to someone else’s negligence, reach out to us at (212) 986-7353 and discuss all of your options in a free consultation.