Big Business Gets Away With Murder In New York
As a personal injury lawyer, I am often confronted with grieving family members, still in shock that a loved one has been killed in an accident. Their shock is often compounded when I explain the law on death in New York.
These tragic deaths should serve as a wake up call to all New Yorkers about the cruel injustice of New York’s antiquated wrongful death statute.
In New York, death is legally valued on a purely economic basis, in addition to any provable “conscious pain and suffering” of the decedent. When someone is killed instantly, and has no financial dependents, the case is close to worthless as a matter of law. New York does not allow grieving family members to recover for their own intangible loss. Even if a jury were to award a family millions of dollars in damages, a judge would be forced to reduce the award to comply with New York’s absurd statute.
While no amount of money will ever be enough to compensate a family for the loss of a loved one, any first year law student knows that one of the primary objectives of the tort system is deterrence. One way similar tragedies could be prevented, is to hold wrongdoers financially responsible for negligence that leads to the deaths of children and adults without dependents. As the law stands now, there is simply no financial incentive to avoid accidentally killing a person in one of these categories.
If corporations and their insurance companies were forced to pay fair and just compensation to the families of anyone killed by negligence, big business would be forced to implement life saving, risk management strategies that would enhance public safety and reduce personal injuries and all their associated suffering.