PCI Questions N.Y. Wrongful Death Bill

February 10, 2004

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America has issued a statement warning that a New York Senate bill could increase damages in wrongful death cases and would be a radical departure from current law that 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,” stated PCI assistant vice president and regional manager Gerald Zimmerman. “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,” Zimmerman indicated.

“Such losses are not quantifiable and impossible to equate with a dollar amount,” he continued. “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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