Update on the Grieving Families Act

There is renewed hope for family members of wrongful death victims in New York State.

Previously, Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed the proposed legislation that would permit family members of wrongful death victims to be compensated for their emotional anguish. Based upon the Governor’s veto, amendments have been made, narrowing the proposed legislation in an effort to expand the rights of surviving family members.

First, there is a proposed change in the statute of limitations for wrongful death actions. Currently (May 3, 2023), the statute of limitations in wrongful death cases is two (2) years. If upheld, the proposed legislation would extend the statute of limitations to three (3) years. The previously vetoed proposed bill sought to extend the statute of limitations to three (3) and a half years.

Secondly, the revised proposed legislation, if upheld, would expand which family members have the right to start a wrongful death action. The amended proposed bill expands the definition of close surviving family members to “spouses, domestic partners, foster children, stepchildren, step-grandchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, step-grandparents, siblings, or anyone acting “in loco parentis” to the deceased person would be eligible.” The vetoed bill did not include a definition of “close family members.” The revised bill contains a concise definition of which family members would be permitted to start an action. With clarity in the legislation, the New York government is more likely to uphold the bill.

The originally proposed bill would have expanded New Yorkers’ ability to hold those responsible for the death of their family members to a fuller extent than currently permissible under the law. As of now, survivors are limited to recovering economic damages. As personal injury attorneys, we opine that the current law does not permit victims to seek justice for the full extent of the damages they experience in these types of cases. The current legislation requires the courts to ignore the emotional impact, grief, and loss of support endured by surviving family members. The responsible parties do not have to pay for such damages, despite directly causing emotional injuries. Unfortunately, the law was unchanged earlier this year, and will still fail to include emotional damages. However, the amended legislation, if upheld, would be steps in the right direction to expand the rights of surviving family members.

If one of your family members passed away because of the actions of others, contact this office for a free case analysis.