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  • Writer's pictureLeitner Varughese Warywoda

The Grieving Families Act Proposes Extensive Changes to New York’s Wrongful Death Statutes

women at burial

When a death could have been prevented had someone acted with reasonable care, it’s usually considered wrongful in the eyes of the law. Consequently, surviving family members often have grounds for legal action.

In the state of New York, however, there have always been strict limitations on wrongful death claims, including who can file them and what kinds of damages they can recover. This has made it challenging for victims’ loved ones to pick up the pieces in the wake of a devastating loss.

Thankfully, some of these limitations may be lifted soon. In a bill proposed by the NY State Senate and State Assembly Judiciary Committees, the definition of what constitutes a “close family member” is expanded. The list of recoverable damages is also expanded to include more than just monetary losses.

Called Senate Bill S74A, or the Grieving Families Act, the bill is currently be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee. Assuming it passes committee review, it will make its way to the Senate and Assembly floors. If passed by those bodies, the bill will land on the desk of the governor, who can sign it into law.

If the Grieving Families Act is signed into law, here are the biggest amendments that will be applied to the state’s wrongful death statutes:

1. Additional Family Members May Be Entitled to Compensation

Under the Grieving Families Act, potential beneficiaries include—but are not limited to—the deceased’s spouse, domestic partner, children, parents, grandparents, stepparents, and siblings. Under the current statute, on the other hand, the three latter groups (grandparents, stepparents, and siblings) are not included.

Should the act pass, it will open the door for a number of family members who were not previously entitled to compensation despite suffering damages as a result of the wrongful death.

2. Eligible Claimants May Seek Compensation for Non-Economic Damages

Currently, recoverable damages in wrongful death actions are limited to monetary losses. Examples include medical bills, funeral expenses, and lost income.

If the new bill passes, however, claimants will also be able to seek funds for non-monetary losses like grief and anguish; loss of love, society, protection, comfort, and companionship; and loss of guidance, counsel, and advice. Naturally, such losses can be significant. As such, compensation for them can make a significant difference in the lives of those left behind.

Speak with a New York Wrongful Death Attorney

Even if the Grieving Families Act passes into law, filing a wrongful death action isn’t necessarily going to get any easier. Thankfully, you don’t have to go it alone. If your loved one died at the hands of someone else, you can count on the compassionate team at Leitner Varughese for strategic guidance every step of the way.

Our tenacious team has secured more than $150 million for clients in personal injury and wrongful death actions. Call 855-585-2969 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a wrongful death lawyer in New York. We counsel clients in New York City, Long Island, and throughout the rest of the state.


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