According to reporting from The Center Square, the New York Grieving Families Act (NY State Senate Bill S74A) is now sitting on the desk of Governor Kathy Hochul. Also known simply as the GFA, the Grieving Families Act would make key reforms to New York’s more than 150-year-old wrongful death law—extending liability to allow for the recovery of non-economic losses.
New York’s current wrongful death law is an outlier. The overwhelming majority of U.S. states already allow surviving family members to pursue compensation for non-economic damages as part of a wrongful death claim. Here, our Syracuse wrongful death attorney explains the most important things you need to know about the New York Grieving Families Act.
The Wrongful Death Law in New York is Unusually Unfavorable to Surviving Family Members
The wrongful death law in New York is considered to be unusually unfavorable to surviving family members. One major aspect of this is that non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, cannot be recovered in a wrongful death claim in New York. This is in contrast to most other states, where non-economic damages are typically recoverable in wrongful death cases. In many ways, the state’s current law is a relic. It was initially enacted in the middle of the 19th century and it dates back to English common law. As of January 1st, 2023, 48 other states allow for the recovery of non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim.
What is the New York Grieving Families Act?
Supported by a coalition of families and their advocates, the Grieving Families Act is a proposed New York state statute that would reform the state’s wrongful death laws to be more favorable to surviving family members. In many ways, the bill would bring New York’s unusually harsh wrongful death statute more in line with the laws in other states. The New York State Assembly originally passed the bill in June of 2022. Here are the three most important points proposed by the New York Grieving Families Act (GFA):
- Allow for the Recovery of Non-Economic Damages: As stated previously, New York’s existing wrongful death law largely limits surviving family members to economic damages. The GFA would change the law to bring New York into line with the vast majority of other U.S. jurisdictions. This is a major and much needed change. The damages associated with the untimely death of a close family member are, primarily, non-economic. It is crucial that grieving families are able to get justice and accountability.
- No Statutory Cap for Damages in Wrongful Death Claims: The bill clarifies that New York would not impose a statutory cap on non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim. Some states that allow for the recovery of non-economic damages have a statutory cap in place. However, there are many states that do not have any cap.
- Extend Statute of Limitations an Additional 18 Months: The statute of limitations is the time frame in which a wrongful death claim must be filed. The Grieving Families Act would extend this time frame by an additional 18 months, giving families more time to file their claim and pursue justice for their loved one. Under existing law, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is two years. The GFA would extend the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim to three years and six months.
New York Governor has Until January 30th, 2023 to Take Action
To be clear, the Grieving Families Act is not yet law in New York State. Governor Kathy Hocul has until January 30th, 2023 to take action on the legislation. The governor must veto the bill or sign the bill into law. There is still also a possibility that Governor Hochul may try to take action to amend the statute. Our Syracuse wrongful death lawyers will keep a close watch on this bill and all other legal and legislative developments that may affect the rights and interests of victims and families.
Get Help From Our Syracuse Wrongful Death Attorney Today
At Powers & Santola, LLP, our Syracuse wrongful death lawyer is standing by, ready to protect the rights and interests of our clients. We are strong, knowledgeable, and justice-focused advocates for grieving families. Give us a call now or send us a direct message to set up your no cost, no obligation initial legal consultation. With a law office in Syracuse and additional offices in Rochester and Albany, we are well-positioned to handle wrongful death claims throughout Upstate New York.