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Setting a value on someone’s life when it had barely begun

| Jan 28, 2017 | Wrongful Death

Wrongful death claims require the jury to do something that’s very hard to do: set a value on someone’s life.That’s not an easy task, but it’s one that has to be done in order to accurately compensate the survivors for the loss of the person they loved.

When the person who died was an adult with an established career, some of the losses can be calculated using the expert testimony of economists. An economist can give the jury an estimation of how much that person would have earned over his or her remaining lifetime, based on complex statistics that even include an average date of a “normal” death.

That tells the jury how much money his or her family loses due to the death of their husband, father, wife or mother. Even if someone was temporarily unemployed at the time of death, his or her past earnings could be used to estimate future earnings.

When the person who died was a young child or teenager, however, with no career to point to, how do juries determine that person’s value? Usually, the jury will be asked to consider several things:

— The age, gender and life expectancy of the child, statistically speaking

— The present and future value of services that the child might have rendered to his or her parents both before and after he or she became an adult

— Any actual financial losses suffered by the family if the child or teen was already contributing to household income

— Losses related to funeral services, cremation or burial, and counseling for the surviving family members.

In the end, parents may face more difficulty getting a fair judgment over the wrongful death of a child, particularly a young child, simply because so many of the determining factors are speculation. That makes it important to hire an attorney who is experienced with wrongful death actions to argue the case.

Source: FindLaw, “Wrongful Death Overview,” accessed Jan. 27, 2017

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