In important wrongful death law news, New York Senate Bill 74A, better known as the Grieving Families Act, is on its way to the governor’s desk.
This bill, if it becomes law, will be the first update to New York wrongful death law in over a century. In this article, we’ll discuss how this new law could help you if you’re in need of a New York wrongful death lawyer.
Why the Grieving Families Act Matters
We’ve written about wrongful death cases many times on the Buttafuoco & Associates blog, often pointing out the major flaw in both New York and New Jersey law: plaintiffs in wrongful death cases can only seek compensation for pecuniary losses (AKA, losses considered monetarily measurable).
As the law currently stands, in cases of wrongful death, families can only claim losses that come with a clear price tag. In other words, children, the elderly, or anyone who doesn’t earn significant income isn’t worth very much in civil court–regardless of how devastating the loss to their family or loved ones.
The Grieving Families Act would expand the compensation available to plaintiffs in the following ways, to include:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses
- “Grief or anguish … or any disorder caused by such grief or anguish”
- “Loss of love, society, protection, comfort, companionship…”
- “Loss of … guidance, counsel, advice, training, and education…”
According to a searing editorial by Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Helene E. Weinstein appearing in The Buffalo News, this new law would also move to fix a glaring racial inequity in wrongful death cases. Because the median income of Black households in Buffalo is $28,000, compared to $50,249 of white families, in wrongful death lawsuits under the current law, the life of a Black resident in Buffalo would, on average, be worth half as much.
Wrongful death lawyers serving New York also note that this law will provide a much-needed legal win for grieving families in the wake of New York’s Covid-19 nursing home disaster, in which more than 15,000 seniors died. Since these individuals did not account for clear financial losses to their family members, plaintiffs have been left with little recourse in the wake of such clear negligence.
Because the Grieving Families Act applies retroactively, plaintiffs will be able to recover the damages they need to move forward with their lives.
Will this Law Apply to my Case?
Aside from expanding the range of damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit, the Grieving Families Act has two other key provisions for Wrongful Death cases that will allow families to recover damages:
- Expanding who may be entitled to damages: Previously, New York law was very restrictive in regard to who may bring a Wrongful Death claim. Now, anyone considered a “close family member” of the deceased may file a wrongful death action. Some individuals, including domestic partners, step-siblings, or grandparents, who would have been left with little legal recourse after the death of a loved one, will now be eligible to claim damages.
- Extending the wrongful death statute of limitations: The second provision extends the timeline to file a wrongful death case by a year and a half, to a total of three years and six months.
We’ve never seen such movement in wrongful death law, and at Buttafuoco & Associates, we’re eager to see Governor Hochul make the right decision and sign it into law. As of the writing of this editorial, wrongful death attorneys in New York are still waiting to see if this will happen.
These types of cases have unique challenges, so consulting with a lawyer is often in your best interests.
Contact Us Today
If your case is already in the works, you should note that the Grieving Families act will be retroactive to all pending wrongful death claims, and we recommend working with a New York wrongful death attorney to make sure you can take full advantage of the new law.
For a free consultation on your case, Contact Buttafuoco & Associates at 1-800-NOW-HURT.