Law Places Little Value On Children, Seniors

In case you hadn't heard, there was another fatal car wreck in Livingston County recently. In that accident, an 82 year old man died when another vehicle veered into his lane on Route 20(a) in Geneseo, killing him almost instantly.

When someone dies in such an accident and the other driver is at fault, the family of the driver who was killed can commence a lawsuit against the responsible person for the "wrongful death" of their loved one. However, under New York law, all that the family can sue for on a wrongful death claim is the present value of the financial or "pecuniary" loss sustained by the family of the deceased. This means that the family can only get the value of the deceased's lost future wages and value of the work that the deceased would have performed around the house. When the deceased is a child or a retired senior, this amount is very small, often not more than $25,000 or so. In order to get any more than this financial or pecuniary loss, the family members would have to prove that their loved one was conscious after the accident for a prolonged period, known as "conscious pain and suffering". The longer the person is awake and suffering, the more the family would be entitled to. However, when death comes almost immediately, the family is not entitled to money for their loved one's pain and suffering, under the theory that, simply, that person didn't suffer.

I think it is rotten that, as a state, we place so small a value on the lives of children and seniors. Why should it matter if they died quickly or lingered? While no amount of money can ease the pain of losing a child or parent or grandparent, the law at least ought to give fair compensation to the surviving family members. What do you think?

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