New York’s Wrongful Death Law Is Unfair and Out of Touch

Western New York Personal Injury Law Blog

New York’s Wrongful Death Law Is Unfair and Out of Touch

New York is one of only a handful of states with a wrongful death statute that does not allow recovery for the suffering caused to family members over the tragic loss of their loved one.  Nor does it compensate them for certain other kinds of non-economic damages.

In New York, under current law, compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one is largely limited to financial losses rather than emotional ones suffered by the family.  Family members can also seek damages for their loved one’s pain and suffering prior to death.  For example, maybe someone survived the immediate aftermath of an accident but eventually succumbed to their injuries.  Their estate can then seek damages for any conscious pain they can prove was experienced prior to death.

Perhaps the most tragic illustration of how unjust the current law is when you have the death of a minor child caused by the negligence of another, such as a drunk driver.  Assuming the child was killed instantly, there would be no conscious pain and suffering and since they were not employed and supporting anyone, there would technically be no economic loss.  Thus, under a strict interpretation of current New York Law, for the most grievous suffering and loss a parent could ever have, they would be entitled to nothing, and the defendant would have no civil responsibility.  Not only is this utterly unfair to the parents, but it is also terrible public policy, because it works contrary to fundamental social goals of safety and accountability.

Only New York’s state government can change the law to bring New York in line with most other states and recognize the full range of losses for a family when a loved one is killed.  If you have lost a family member due to someone else’s negligence, you know that only considering their pain and what they contributed economically doesn’t begin to address the enormity of the loss.  Let your state representatives know that this illogical and unfair law needs to be changed.


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