Valuation of a Wrongful Death Claim Involving a Child or an Elderly Person

In wrongful death cases, a victim’s life’s value to their family members is measured by their earning potential and other factors. It’s enormously difficult to place a dollar value on human life, but it’s a task that juries and judges have to do on a daily basis. Because of the valuation of a wrongful death, a child’s or senior’s death may raise certain difficulties. To arrive at an accurate value, the courts follow the principles below.

Losing a Child
When a working adult passes away, financial loss is easy to determine. However, losses aren’t measured only by earnings, but by the value of the love, companionship and nurturing that was lost. When a wrongful death case involves a child, parents can only recover based on financial losses, which are determined by:
• The child’s habits, health, life expectancy, earnings potential, age and gender
• The relationship of the child to those claiming a loss
• The age, health and other circumstances of those claiming the loss

Many assessments are speculative in nature, and if a child is particularly young at death the process can be difficult. For instance, it’s easier to guess an 18-year-old’s earning potential than it is to guess the future income of a ten-year-old. Rules against speculation don’t limit parents’ recoveries, but most courts grant relatively small awards in wrongful death cases involving children.

Fetal Loss
State laws vary as to whether a mother can sue when she loses a pregnancy. Most states require that children be born alive for a wrongful death suit to proceed. Therefore, the loss of a fetus does not form the basis of a lawsuit. Local attorneys can advise clients on state laws and as to whether they can sue for wrongful death after a fetal loss.

Loss of the Elderly
A child’s death typically doesn’t produce a large award, and similarly an elderly person’s death comes with limited potential for recovery. Modest awards are due to multiple factors, as shown below.
• It’s assumed that a person pas retirement age has no earning potential
• Children of elderly people no longer need nurturing, support and parental guidance

The low valuation of a wrongful death in elderly-related claims is a source of controversy, and victims should call a wrongful death attorney to determine whether a claim exists. A lawyer with Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas LLP can help clients estimate damages and they can offer solid legal advice.

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