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Last Updated: 07-12-2022

Albany, New York — A new bill that would amend New York’s current wrongful death statute has passed the Senate and the State Assembly, and is now headed to Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.

The bill, known as the Grieving Families Act, amends the state’s wrongful death law by permitting families to recover non-financial damages for emotional anguish if their loved one was killed due to someone else’s negligence. Under the present statute, families of wrongful death victims can only recover compensation for pecuniary (monetary) damages. The new bill will change victims’ lives by recognizing the grief surviving family members often suffer.

The current wrongful death laws favor high-wage earners by only permitting families to recover financial damages. This devalues other, non-financial contributions made by children, elderly individuals, and other victims who may not have contributed financially but brought value to the family unit in other significant ways. The new bill recognizes the contributions of all victims, not just breadwinners, by allowing families to recover compensation for emotional losses.

The bill also redefines “close family members” and broadens the range of potential plaintiffs in a wrongful death suit. The original law limited financial recovery to specific family members, including parents and spouses, and excluded individuals who were not legally part of the victim’s family, such as domestic partners, even if those individuals were close to the deceased. The new bill takes the unique circumstances of each victim’s close, personal relationships into account and permits recovery by other immediate family members and spouses and children. This includes unmarried, domestic partners.

Finally, the act extends the statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death lawsuit. Formerly, a wrongful death lawsuit had to be filed within two years, but the new bill, if signed into law, would expand that window of time to 3.5 years.

Advocates of the bill believe that if approved, the new law would also deter institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities from engaging in negligent care practices, given that the amended law places a higher value on life and leaves defendants with a higher risk of exposure.

If your loved one passed away due to another person’s negligence, contact Hach & Rose, LLP today for a free, no-risk consultation. Our New York wrongful death lawyers have the knowledge and resources to help you navigate the legal process and pursue the compensation you are entitled to.

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