An Update on Wrongful Death Laws and the “Grieving Families Act”—New York State Senate Bill S74A

New York State’s wrongful death laws were originally created in 1847—over 175 years ago. Under the current law, families can only claim damages associated with financial loss such as necessary medical expenses, funeral costs, and the loss of financial support from the deceased. By limiting compensable damages only to those relating to “economic hardship,” families cannot currently make any claims associated with pain and suffering.

Known as the “Grieving Families Act,” Bill S74A seeks to bring New York State into the 21st century by joining 48 other states in crafting more modern wrongful death laws. Most significantly, the proposed bill acknowledges that the loss of a loved one goes far beyond the financial considerations bereaved family members are currently restricted to, changing the relevant laws to allow compensation for emotional and psychological damages. Another way the Grieving Families Act seeks to bring New York State law in step with modern times is by expanding the definition of a “family member” to include “close family members” beyond children, such as spouses, domestic partners, parents, grandparents, stepparents, and siblings.

Despite two separate versions of the bill being passed by both the State Senate and State Assembly (most recently in 2022), Governor Kathy Hochul has vetoed the bill for a second time in as many tries, most recently just before the end-of-year legislative deadline. Among the concerns the Governor and opponents of the bill have expressed are the unknown costs associated with such a change, which they suggest would increase insurance premiums while negatively impacting consumers, businesses, and, ultimately, individual taxpayers.

While the current status of discussions is largely unknown, given the genuine public interest and support behind the Grieving Families Act, it would seem inevitable that lawmakers and advocates for change are already hard at work on a new version of the bill as they continue to try and amend New York’s wrongful death laws.

If you have any questions about “pain and suffering” or other issues associated with wrongful death and personal injury cases, call or text Segar & Sciortino at (585) 475-1100. One of our experienced personal injury attorneys can assist you.

To learn more about our personal injury attorneys, visit our website. And to read about other related topics, please visit our blog.