What are the Economic Damages That the Survivors are Entitled to in a Wrongful Death Case?
- March 29, 2017
When there is evidence that an individual passes away because of the improper actions of another person or entity, there is grounds to file what is known as a wrongful death suit. Depending on the court that will have jurisdiction over the case, only certain types of economic damages will be recognized. A personal injury attorney who handles wrongful death cases as part of his or her practice is in a position to advise clients on what sort of economic damages can be claimed. Here are examples of the more likely types that the court will recognize.
Understanding the Nature of Economic Damages
The legal definition for economic damages focuses on what the court considers to be verifiable financial losses in the present and in the future. As this relates to wrongful death cases, the goal is to identify any type of financial loss that the survivors are likely to experience as a direct result of the death. States have statutes in place that define what constitutes economic damage and often includes provisions for projecting future income or financial hardships that survivors stand a significant chance of encountering as the result of the improper action on the part of the responsible party.
It would be hard to find any court that would not allow survivors or the estate of the deceased to seek damages related to end of life medical expenses. That would include outstanding debts related to ambulance services, emergency room treatments, surgeries, and all hospital costs. Any type of medical expense that can be related directly to the event causing the death can be included in the suit.
Funeral and Burial Expenses
If the survivors incurred out of pocket expenses for funerals, burials, or cremations, those debts may also be included as part of the economic damages found in the wrongful death suit. As with the medical expenses, the rationale is to prevent any financial hardship that the survivors would incur by having to absorb those final expenses.
Compensation For Lost Wages or Salaries
When the deceased was not in a position to earn income for any period of time, it’s possible for the survivors to include the amount of those lost wages or salaries in the the wrongful death suit. This can be especially important if the lost income would have gone to support a spouse and children. Including this type of damages prevents the immediate family from dealing with financial worries while mourning the loss of their loved one.
Damages for Future Lost Wages
How old was the deceased at the time of death? Based on current averages for the age of retirement, how many more years would the deceased have continued to actively work at his or her profession or job? Many courts allow the inclusion of projections regarding the income the individual would have generated had the death not taken place. Depending on the standards used for those projections, the total amount of income may be adjusted for inflation. These damages may be specifically defined as future lost wages or be included in a more general class of damages known as loss of support.
While some may think that projecting the future income of a person who worked as an independent contractor or who owned a business would be more difficult than projecting the income of someone who was employed by a company, that is not the case. Historical data regarding earnings plays a major role in determining the projected future lost wages. Based on the earning power of the deceased while the individual was still alive, it’s possible to arrive at an average annual figure that is multiplied by the number of years the person would have likely remained part of the work force.
Remember that many states also allow damages that are not directly related to finances. While those provisions vary, it pays to work with the attorney to determine if some type of compensation for mental anguish, loss of companionship, professional counseling for the survivors, and other kinds of damages may also be included in the suit. With the help of legal counsel who understands the laws that apply in the court of jurisdiction, it is possible to ensure every type of damages permitted by the court are included in the details of the wrongful death suit.