New York Assembly Passes Law to Update Wrongful Death Rules

New York Assembly Passes Law to Update Wrongful Death Rules

June 6, 2022

Last week, the New York State Assembly passed a long overdue update to the laws governing the right to sue following a wrongful death.

Under current law, which dates back to centuries-old English common law, the family of a loved one who dies is limited in the scope of damages they can recover to simply economic damages. For example, if a 35-year-old husband and father is killed, his family can file a suit to recover future earnings based on his current job, potential for advancement, how many years he had left in his working career, and the number of family members who relied on his income for support.

The problem is, what if a six-year-old child dies? Or a retired grandmother? Or a disabled person who may not be able to work? Under the current law, because those individuals did not earn any income, and did not have anyone relying on them for financial support, their families are unable to recover any economic damages.

With the legislature signing Bill S74A, the Grieving Families Act, that is about to change. The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul, will allow a family to sue and also recover a monetary judgement for emotional damages from a negligent defendant found responsible for the death of their loved one. Such laws are on the books in 48 out of the 50 states.

While that is the most significant component of the Grieving Families Act, it is not the only important change. Additionally the law:

  • Extends the statute of limitations to file a case from the current two years, to three years and six months following the death.
  • Allows for close family members to be eligible for a financial recovery. Under the current rules, only immediate members of the decedent’s estate are eligible.
  • Covers all currently pending cases. Unlike many laws, pending cases are grandfathered in before the bill is signed into law.

Our personal injury team works with many families to file wrongful death lawsuits, and we anticipate with the expansion of the compensatory damages, we will see an influx of new cases in the months ahead.

The antiquated days of measuring loss based solely on a person’s economic value to his or her family appears close to becoming a thing of the past. This updated law specially recognizes the attributes, that we as families truly value,  were never based on one’s economic value, but  were instead based on our love, companionship, and their advice and guidance, which before this law, counted for nothing.

For the families we work with, who have seen their lives turned upside down by the loss of a loved one, this is a change that is long overdue.

Howard B. Cohen concentrates his practice on the prosecution and trial of substantial accident and personal injury claims, which include automobile accidents, wrongful death claims, and construction accidents. He can be reached at 716-854-4300 ext. 214 or