Questions about Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
If you or someone you know may have a wrongful death case, you may have questions about how it works and how it will be handled. Some of your biggest questions might be about compensation- what kinds of compensation are available, how is it measured out, and who will pay it? Read on to discover some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about damages in wrongful death cases.
What Kinds of Damages Are Available?
The main issue at play is a financial question- how do we compensate someone for the loss of a person? Pecuniary, or financial, damages is the most common form of compensation in wrongful death cases. These include compensation for the loss of support, services, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. Sometimes, the damages will include an award for interest from the date of the decedent’s death to the date of the payout.
How Do We Determine the Value of a Life?
It may seem callous to put a pecuniary value on the life of a person, but that is what must be done in a wrongful death case. When determining loss, one might consider the age, character, and condition of the decedent, his or her earning capacity, life expectancy, health, and intelligence. Generally, the main considerations when valuing a life for wrongful death purposes are considerations surrounding the decedent’s circumstances at the time of death. For instance, one might consider the loss of income of the decedent as well as the loss of, for instance, parental guidance to any children he or she may have. The decedent’s earnings at the time of death will be evaluated, as well as past and future earnings.
How Does a Jury Know What the Value Is?
In wrongful death cases, plaintiffs (the persons bringing the case) generally present what’s called expert testimony, in which they call a witness with expertise in something like economics or accounting in order to establish the value of the decedent’s life. That expert witness will calculate the value and explain it to a jury, who can then use that information in determining what award should be given to the plaintiffs.
Is a Jury’s Award the Final Word on the Issue?
No. It may surprise you to learn that a court can alter a jury’s award of compensation for a variety of reasons. For instance, courts might reduce a jury’s award if the decedent had poor earnings, even if he was young, showed great potential, and supported his children. A court might adjust the jury’s award if the decedent was unemployed or underemployed at the time of his or her death. Finally, if the decedent generally squandered his or her earnings, that might also reduce his or her family’s recovery amount. In short, a jury’s award is not the final word on the issue.
If you or someone you know has a wrongful death case, you should get in touch with an experienced Columbia wrongful death attorney. You can find one at The Stanley Law Group. Call 803-799-4700 and set up a consultation.