As it currently stands on the date of this writing, New York State’s wrongful death statute limits recovery to “pecuniary” losses. These losses generally include economic losses such as lost wages or medical expenses. Emotional damages such as grief or anguish are not considered pecuniary losses under New York law. Thus, recovery for emotional damages is not currently permitted by New York State’s wrongful death statute.
Therefore, generally speaking, one can only recover in a wrongful death claim if there was an economic loss associated with the death of their loved one. Some argue that, as a result, the current wrongful death statute may have the appearance of devaluing the lives of minors, seniors, or other individuals who do not generate an income upon which their loved ones relied. For many individuals, this may seem problematic or unjust.
Thankfully, on June 2, 2022, the New York State Legislature voted to pass the Grieving Families Act, whose purpose is to “permit the families of wrongful death victims to recover compensation for their emotional anguish.” If signed into law by New York Governor, the Grieving Families Act would reverse the ages old rule that limits recovery to pecuniary losses in wrongful death cases. Accordingly, the law would permit recovery of emotional damages along with pecuniary losses.
The Grieving Families Act would transform wrongful death practice in New York State and would serve as a benefit to many. William Mattar, P.C. will continue to monitor this important piece of legislation and update you on its status. If you are seeking a wrongful death attorney please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced accident attorneys today.