PCI Says N.Y. Wrongful Death Bill Attempts to Put a Dollar Amount on Grief

February 9, 2004

A New York Senate bill that would increase damages in wrongful death cases would reportedly be a radical departure from current law and could have profound implications in the state.

“By expanding recoverable damages and inflating damage awards, S.B. 2994 could adversely affect both the availability and affordability of liability insurance in New York,” said Gerald Zimmerman, assistant vice president and regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). “Moreover, it would provide a windfall for plaintiff attorneys because their fees would make up about one-third of liability insurance premiums.”

The current law provides for quantifiable compensation to the survivors for the loss of support, services or contributions. Compensation covers earnings, medical insurance coverage, pension benefits and household services.

“The bill would expand damages to include grief or anguish, including loss of love, society, comfort, guidance, counsel, advice and companionship,” continued Zimmerman. “Such losses are not quantifiable and impossible to equate with a dollar amount. This language is an invitation to endless litigation, especially when an attorney’s fee is contingent upon the favorable outcome.

“The death of a family member is a significant emotional loss for a survivor and adequate loss is difficult to compute. But allowing recovery of speculative and subjective damages is contrary to sound public policy.”

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