This issue, of how the law determines how much the family of a deceased receives because of their loved one's death, is an extremely difficult issue in New York. It is often the cause of a great deal of additional anguish to those who have already suffered a grievous loss.
New York State only allows monetary recovery for two grounds for "Wrongful Death":
* First, for the pain and suffering of the deceased (NOT the relatives) and only if and while the deceased was conscious !! If the deceased was killed instantly, there is no allowable recovery for this first of two grounds.
* Second: "Pecuniary Loss," or simply put, for the financial loss to those who benefited from the income of the deceased during his life. If the deceased earned no income (for example the deceased was retired or very young) then it would be very difficult to show any loss under this category.
If, for example, a parent was in their thirties, survived an accident in a conscious state for a period of time, and earned a good income, then the recovery for such a situation may well be very substantial (considering a working life of over thirty years that remained). Eliminate either the conscious pain and suffering or the lifetime income, and the possible recovery is substantially reduced. Eliminate both categories, and one can easily see why attorneys in New York cringe when faced with the prospect of explaining this situation to families of a deceased individual. That no recovery is allowed for the enormous grief and pain experienced by the family is almost incomprehensible, and remains one of the anomalies of New York law.
It is of the utmost importance that you seek an attorney experienced in WRONGFUL DEATH cases should you or someone you know find themselves in such an unfortunate situation. An experienced attorney will at least be able to extract from any situation the greatest leeway permissible under this current law.