The death of a family member is one of the most challenging things anyone can face. While everybody reacts somewhat differently, the grieving process can be long and complicated.
It is hard to come to terms with the loss, especially when the loss was “wrongful,” resulting from the negligent actions of another.
New York’s wrongful death law, as it currently exists, does not allow grieving family members to receive compensation for grief and anguish caused by another. Instead, New York’s wrongful death law only permits compensation for “pecuniary damages” – that is, economic loss. As observed by one court over a century ago: “Nothing can be allowed for sentiment, for grief or for suffering, even when death was not immediate.”
New York has one of the least generous wrongful death laws in the nation: Most other states permit recovery for emotional loss, including grief.
Fortunately, the New York Legislature has passed the “Grieving Families Act,” which would finally modernize the law and allow surviving close family members to recover for emotional losses. If the Governor signs the Act wrongful death victims would be able to seek damages for pecuniary damages and emotional losses, including:
. . . grief or anguish caused by the decedent’s death, and for any disorder caused by such grief or anguish [and] loss of love, society, protection, comfort, companionship, and consortium resulting from the decedent’s death . . .
By signing the Grieving Families Act into law, the Governor could send a powerful message that human lives are not reducible to paychecks, and even those who do not earn a paycheck can bring immense joy and happiness into the family. When a family is wrongfully deprived of that joy and happiness because of the negligence of another, that should be compensable.
In fact, that was a primary justification for the Act. Lawmakers found that the current law “in essence, says that the attributes of our family members that we most value—emotional support, love, companionship, advice and guidance—count for nothing.”
The Grieving Families Act would dramatically change wrongful death lawsuits in New York. William Mattar, P.C.’s wrongful death attorneys can help the families of wrongful death victims and advise how enactment of the Grieving Families Act could potentially affect a given case. Contact William Mattar for questions regarding your family’s wrongful death case. (844) 444-4444.