For two centuries, under New York’s wrongful death law, grieving families have been unable to sue for those damages arising out of the emotional injuries engendered by a loved one’s wrongful death. The powerful Retail Wholesale and Department Store Unions (RWDSU), which has around 100,000 members, recently joined a broad coalition of unions that have endorsed the Grieving Families Act and has asked New York Governor Hochul to sign it into law. The Grieving Families Act is a bill sponsored by a New York State Senate Judiciary Chair and New York State Assemblymember that would change the rule that families can’t recover for their emotional injuries when a loved one has died due to another’s neglect or intentional acts; currently families can only recover for pecuniary or economic losses, like loss of inheritance. In recent months there has been a groundswell of support for the Grieving Families Act from working people.
Governor Hochul has until the end of 2023 to sign the bill into law. Last year, she vetoed a broader related piece of legislation stating that the complex issues required her to look closer at the data. The bill is believed by some senators to be appropriate for a veto override in the coming year if that becomes necessary.
The letter also said that the existing wrongful death law suggests that rich workers whose families see significant pecuniary losses upon their deaths are more valuable than middle class or lower income workers. The latter are denied restitution. Construction workers are at particular risk of wrongful death. When workers are killed falling from heights, for example, Labor Law 240, the Scaffold Law, provides the possibility of recovering damages. Under this law, construction owners and contractors are expected to provide safety measures to protect workers from falls and falling objects; these safety measures could include ladders, slings, hoists, scaffolding, hangers, pulleys, stays, and ropes. The law provides absolute liability for owners and contractors when they have failed to protect workers. Even so, the families of these workers cannot recover damages for their emotional injuries as the result of their losses—which are tremendous regardless of the amount of money their loved one made and used to support them.
As members of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, we’re fully in support of the governor signing the Grieving Families Act into law and have been supporters of the law for some time. In 2023, emotional injuries should be compensable in a wrongful death case in New York. Currently, New York is one of only two states in the United States that don’t allow damages to be recovered for emotional losses sustained as a result of a loved one’s wrongful death.
Those of us who have lost loved ones know that it’s not only pecuniary losses that affect those left behind after a death, but also emotional injuries; as a society, we can’t regard only those cases that result in pecuniary losses as valuable cases.
Consult Seasoned New York Trial Lawyers About Your Case
If your loved one suffered a wrongful death in White Plains, you should call the trustworthy personal injury lawyers of Law Office of Mark Siesel. Our principal has 37 years of experience. He is unafraid to take a case to trial when a fair settlement is not offered. He represents accident victims and their families in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, along with Westchester, Putnam, Kings, Orange, Dutchess, Sullivan, Rockland, Ulster, and New York Counties. Call us at (914) 428-7386 or complete our online form.