The problem with wrongful death actions is that there are no injuries for which compensation can be granted, like a broken arm or concussion. And there is no direct witness that can attest to the pain and suffering they felt. When these two classic ways of establishing damages are absent, courts and juries must look to other methods to determine appropriate compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. This is referred to as determining the value of the victim’s life. It is an unpleasant but necessary task in order to resolve these disputes.
For an adult, the value of their life is usually a calculation of their lifetime potential earnings based upon their age, health, education and current salary levels. This number is then modified based upon the potential to bear and raise children and form meaningful long-term companionships with other adults. This means that if a parent dies, then the child may seek compensation based upon the loss of financial and emotional guidance and support from that parent.
This formula, while very fair to adults, is less forgiving for children and the elderly. Children have not yet reached their professional potential, therefore, it is impossible to accurately project their future earnings. Additionally, children are unable to bear children or begin meaningful adult relationships; therefore, you are unable to claim these damages as well. Generally, the court will allow parties to seek only limited financial damages based upon the particular characteristics of the child.
These limitations also apply to an elderly person. Commonly it is assumed that a person passed the age of retirement is no longer going to produce significant financial resources. Additionally, older people are unable to reproduce, therefore, the loss of potential future life and nurturing is also not considered. This dual approach to valuing human life significantly erodes the value of an elderly person’s life in the eyes of the court.
If you or a loved one is considering pursuing a wrongful death action, then you may want to consult with a lawyer to review the pros and cons. The attorney could go over your case in an effort to determine your best course of action for pursuing compensation for your loss.