New York’s ‘Grieving Families Act’ expected to dramatically increase liability risk

New York’s ‘Grieving Families Act’ expected to significantly increase liability risk

By Dave LaChance
Insurance | Legal

A bill that would expand New York’s wrongful death law to recognize emotional harm and extend the statute of limitations by 18 months has passed both houses of the state legislature.

If signed by Governor Kathy Hochel, the bill is expected to significantly increase the risk of liability for auto body repair shops and other businesses in the state.

Senate Bill S74A, known as the Grieving Families Act, would revise New York law governing the types of damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit. This would recover emotional damages, instead of just the economic damages now permitted; expand the definition of “family members” who can sue; and extending the statute of limitations from two years to three and a half years.

Governor Kathy Hochul

The bill was sent to Hochel on June 10. On Monday, the governor was “reviewing the legislation,” Hochul spokesman Avi Small told RDN. The bill would come into force as soon as it is signed.

Supporters of the bill, including advocates for the elderly and disabled, as well as civic and consumer organizations, say the current law, enacted in 1847, needs updating.

“Every year, New Yorkers are killed by drunk drivers, medical negligence, faulty products, dangerous road conditions and countless other acts and omissions,” a group of attorneys wrote to state lawmakers. . “New York’s outdated wrongful death law fails to recognize the pain and grief felt by survivors, or recognize the loss of companionship, comfort and guidance provided by this wrongfully killed person. It deprives survivors of a full measure of justice, devaluing the lives of children, the elderly and other loved ones who would not produce substantial income.

Opponents, including the insurance industry and medical groups, have argued that the bill’s vague wording and lack of payment caps like those used in nearly 40 other states with similar laws will lead to dramatic increases in the state’s already high liability insurance premiums.

The New York State Medical Society (MSSNY) wrote in opposition to the bill: “In light of the already shockingly high medical liability insurance costs faced by physicians and hospitals, not to mention the Huge reduction in patient income as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic delaying elective surgeries and preventing patients from leaving their homes, MSSNY strongly opposes this measure and urges that it be reversed.

David Willett, the founder and chief underwriting officer of Spark Underwriters, speaking neither for nor against the bill, told Repairer Driven News that the vagueness of the bill, like its expanded definition of a “member of the close family”, would be resolved over time in court. . “But it will take time – litigation and precedents must be cited and accepted, adopted and suspended. It’s gonna be a while.

When asked if there were any steps body repair shops should take if and when the bill is enacted, Willett replied, “All you can do is just be a lot more diligent in doing quality work…because if that leads to an unfortunate event, there is going to be a risk of greater liability associated with it because of it.

According to the most recent data available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 200,955 unintentional injury deaths were recorded in the United States in 2018. Willett highlighted three categories of deaths of concern for stores:; industrial accidents, seventh; and premises liability accidents, thirdly.

Willett suggested the law could have a ripple effect in other states that have more restrictive statutes on wrongful death liability.

What effect the law would have on liability insurance premiums remains to be seen, Willett said. “Ultimately it will come down to how big it is in the numbers. There can always be upsides due to the anticipation of legislation being passed, but the real adjustments will probably only come two or three years from now. , when [damage awards] start showing up in the data.

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