How Can Money Compensate for the Death of a Loved One?

It goes without saying that no amount of monetary award can compensate for the loss of a loved one. However, money is the only thing our legal system can provide. It is hoped that money helps survivors to move forward with their lives after the devastation of an unexpected death due to the negligence of another party.

The New York statute regarding wrongful death cases, part of the Estate Powers and Trust Law, specifies that survivors may sue to recover economic damages only. Although the law does allow for punitive damages — amounts assessed by the courts strictly to punish the negligent party — it has no provision for compensation of the survivors for their emotional suffering and grief. However, the state Constitution separately establishes that there is no limit on the amount that can be recovered, and over the years the courts have broadened the scope of what can be included in economic damages in wrongful death lawsuits.

For instance, when survivors include minor children, courts have ruled that the damages may include what it has called nurture, intellectual and physical training, and such instruction as only can be received from a parent. Compensation can also include:

  • Loss of love
  • Companionship
  • Comfort
  • Affection
  • Society
  • Solace
  • Moral support
  • Protection
  • Advice
  • Training

Also, while the suffering of the survivors is not compensable, the estate may be awarded damages reflecting the suffering of the victim prior to death.

It is up to the plaintiffs and their NY personal injury lawyers to present a reasonable argument as to how such damages may be itemized and quantified into financial terms.