On January 30, 2023, Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed Senate Bill S74A—better known as the Grieving Families Act.
Among those supporting the bill were grief-stricken surviving family members whose losses were human, not economic. The Grieving Families Act, had it been signed into law by the Governor, would have permitted recovery of damages for the emotional impact of a wrongful death.
A 2018 limousine crash in Schoharie, New York killed 20 people, the most to die in a U.S. transportation-related accident since 2009.
The 2001 Ford Excursion limousine was transporting family and friends to a passenger’s birthday party when it ran a stop sign 170 miles north of New York City, according to sources. A few minutes before 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday, the limousine struck two pedestrians and a parked SUV in a store parking lot before coming to rest in a ravine.
Killed in the crash were all 17 passengers in the limousine, its driver, and two pedestrians. Among the dead were two newlywed couples, two brothers from one family, and four sisters from another family.
The limousine passengers were celebrating the birthday of the youngest sister, according to a report. Most of the victims were from the Amsterdam, New York, area, according to a tweet from a state assembly member.
The limousine driver was found not properly licensed to drive a limousine, according to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
Cases such as the Scoharie limousine crash highlight the possibility of wrongful deaths on New York roads and the potential lack of compensation available to some devastated families under current law, which limits compensation in wrongful-death cases to pecuniary, or monetary, damages only.
According to the New York Department of Health, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death for New York state residents. With the Grieving Families Act, New York would have joined some other states in allowing recovery for grief or anguish caused by the death.
The bill would also have expanded the list of family members who can sue for wrongful death to include “surviving close family members,” such as spouses, domestic partners, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, and siblings.
The Grieving Families Act also would have extended the statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful-death claim by one year and six months.
A statute of limitations is a law saying how long after an event a case may be started. Had Gov. Hochul signed the bill into law, the current statute of limitations of two years would have been extended to three years and six months.
In a veto message and a newspaper op-ed piece, Gov. Hochul said she is open to negotiating a change in the current statute.
In vetoing the Grieving Families Act, Gov. Hochul called for more study of its potential effects on the economy and the healthcare system. She has proposed changes that include an exemption for medical-malpractice claims.
If you’ve lost a loved one in a car crash caused by someone else’s recklessness or negligence and don’t know what recourse you might have, you may find talking with an attorney helpful.
Regardless of the Grieving Families Act, if you yourself have been injured in a car crash in New York, you may be able to sue for emotional as well as financial damages. In fact, our experienced car accident attorneys here at William Mattar, P.C. have helped many people seek and secure maximum compensation.
So, if you’re in a car crash, just call (844) 444-4444 or fill out our online form for an initial consultation.