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Grieving Families Act Would Modernize New York Wrongful Death Law

When a loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence or willful misconduct, bereaved family members suffer an irreplaceable loss. One aspect of this loss is economic. The deceased victim will no longer be able to earn income to support the family. Since 1847, New York law has given surviving loved ones the right to bring a wrongful death action in order to recover compensation from the liable parties. However, damages in these cases are currently limited to economic costs associated with a fatality, overlooking the devastating emotional harm that results from a wrongful death. Proponents of a new law are trying to change that.

The Grieving Families Act would put New York in line with more than 40 states that provide compensation for the emotional burden that accompanies an unexpected fatality caused by negligence or an intentional act. This can make an enormous difference to a bereaved plaintiff who lost a loved one due to a vehicle accident, an instance of medical malpractice or some other type of fatal incident. Elements of the proposed legislation include:

  • Loss of love, comfort and companionship damages — Not every wrongful death involves financial harm. Children and seniors might not be bringing income into a household, but their absence is devastating for those who are left behind. The new law, by authorizing damages for the loss of love, comfort, companionship, society and protection, would give plaintiffs a better chance to achieve a result that accurately reflects how they’ve suffered. Spouses could also receive compensation for loss of consortium resulting from their partner’s absence.
  • Loss of guidance, counsel and education damages — Whether it’s a parent teaching a child how to drive or a wife guiding her husband through a personal crisis, we rely on the people we love to help us become better. A sudden fatality permanently robs survivors of the chance to learn from the victim.
  • Expansion of eligible plaintiffs — New York’s wrongful death law has not evolved with the changes in how we define a family. Should the current bill be passed, grandparents, siblings and others who were close to the deceased will have an opportunity to obtain legal relief from liable parties.

Pursuing a legal claim following a wrongful death can seem extremely difficult. Though nothing can truly make up for the loss of a loved one, monetary compensation offers a measure of justice to bereaved individuals. Should the Grieving Families Act become law, it will more fully realize the goals of the original statute that was enacted before the Civil War.

Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP provides comprehensive legal support in wrongful death litigation across Nassau and Suffolk counties. Regardless of the legal standards that apply, we will work diligently to secure appropriate payment through a judgment or settlement.