Why NY Needs the Grieving Families Act to Pass

On May 6, 2023, the New York State Senate passed Senate Bill S6636, now Assembly Bill A6698 or “The Grieving Families Act.” The bill seeks to significantly change New York’s antiquated wrongful death statute. The Grieving Families Act received overwhelming support from both houses in 2022 but was vetoed by the Governor. The Act has been amended and reintroduced and is awaiting Governor Hochul’s signature. Here is why N.Y. needs the Grieving Families Act to pass this time.

 

New York’s Wrongful Death Law

The loss of a loved one to negligence can devastate survivors. Loved ones in this situation are often left to cope with long-term emotional and financial harm. Despite these realities, in New York, devasted family members are extremely limited in their ability to recover damages for their loved one’s wrongful death.

New York law provides that only a child, parent, spouse, or personal representative of the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death action. Therefore, other loved ones, such as domestic partners, siblings, or cousins, cannot file a claim unless they are the decedent’s guardian or personal representative. Current law also provides that, outside of certain limited circumstances, there is a two-year statute of limitations from the date of the decedent’s death to pursue this type of claim.

In addition, grief-stricken family members can only pursue certain damages. Under New York’s current wrongful death law, survivors may only recover pecuniary (monetary) damages when a person is killed due to negligence. Pecuniary damages are the amount of money a person would have earned if they had not died. In sum, the law fails to consider the loss, pain, suffering, and other damages a family incurs when they lose a loved one to wrongful death.

New York law also fails to consider a decedent’s family contributions as represented by caring for their children, being a stay-at-home parent, or their status as a person with a disability or a retiree. In effect, current New York law almost exclusively values high-wage earners.

 

The Grieving Families Act

As proposed, the passage of The Grieving Families Act will align New York law with the true impact of wrongful death loss, increase the statute of limitations, and create a pathway for survivors to recover appropriate damages for their harm.

The Act would extend the statute of limitation from two years in most cases to three years for a wrongful death action. In addition, family members would be allowed to recover from their pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, consortium, support, and comfort. The Act also expands the definition of those who may recover damages for wrongful death.

Specifically, Assembly Bill 6698 would make some of the following changes to New York’s Wrongful Death Law:

  • Extending the statute of limitation from two to three years from the date of the decedent’s death
  • Provides for recovery for “grief or anguish caused by the decedent’s death” in addition to other damages.
  • Defines “surviving close family members” as the decedent’s spouse or domestic partner, issue, foster and step-children, step-grandchildren, parents, parents, grandparents, step-parents, step-grandparents, siblings, or any person standing in loco parentis to the decedent for the purpose of distributing damages.
  • Provides that the finder of fact shall determine which persons are entitled to damages as close family members of the decedent” based on the specific circumstances relating to the person’s relationship with the decedent.

 

New York’s Wrongful Death Law is Out of Step with Today’s Circumstances

When a loved one is killed, survivors need adequate time and sufficient standing to file suit. New York’s Wrongful Death statute has not been updated since the 1800s and is no longer in keeping with the economic realities of those impacted. Further, those harmed may suffer significant emotional injury and loss, for which they should be compensated.

 

New York Needs the Grieving Families Act

Wrongful death impacts loved ones on multiple levels. The proposed changes acknowledge these losses and seek to provide appropriate remedies for those most harmed by a decedent’s death. It is long past time to modernize New York law and help those most in need.

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party, it’s crucial that you understand your legal rights. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we are compassionate, knowledgeable attorneys who can help.

 

Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

If your loved one died due to someone’s negligence, you should schedule a free consultation with the experienced attorneys at Bonina & Bonina, P.C. Call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 or contact us online for a free consultation. We have decades of experience helping clients injured by negligence, and we can explain your options and help you decide what actions you should take. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we come to work daily believing that everyone should have equal justice—se habla espaňol. Home and hospital visits are available.