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Change To New York’s Wrongful Death Statute Awaits Its Fate

July 15, 2022

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<p style="text-align: justify;">With the passing of the Grieving Families Act by the New York State Senate and Assembly on June 7, 2022, the proposed legislation currently awaits its fate before Gov. Kathy Hochul. This legislation, if signed into law, would change the state’s 175-year-old wrongful death statute by permitting the families of wrongful death victims to recover compensation for emotional anguish. While the current New York wrongful death statute limits recovery in such cases to a decedent’s close family members, e.g., a spouse or child, and for pecuniary loss only, the pending legislation would expand the scope of recovery to allow for emotional damages including grief or anguish and loss of affection and companionship. It would also expand family members who could sue under the statute to include spouses, domestic partners, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, and siblings. The law would also extend the time permitted to bring a wrongful death action from two years to three-and-a-half years.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Such a change in the law would significantly increase liability insurance premiums for both public and private entities throughout the state. According to an actuarial analysis by Milliman, Inc., if the bill becomes law, medical professional liability costs would increase by nearly 40%, automobile and general liability insurance by as much as $2.2 billion, and annual premiums for residents and businesses across the board would increase 12.6%. Given the economic uncertainty presently looming in conjunction with an inflation rate not seen in forty years at more than 9%, such costs may wreak havoc on an already tenuous economic situation.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Please contact <a href="mailto:jdiffley@wcmlaw.com">John Diffley</a> with any questions.</p>

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