There’s virtually nothing in life as tragic as losing a loved one. That tragedy and heartache is amplified when your loved one is taken away due to a preventable accident caused by the negligence of other people.
Many families who have experienced this kind of loss feel guilt about bringing wrongful death suits against the responsible parties. They fear other people will view their actions as trying to profit from the death of someone they loved.
That is simply the wrong way to think about wrongful death cases.
Firstly, there should absolutely be consequences for causing someone else’s death due to negligence. In some cases, those consequences are criminal; but not always. Damages can be sought in addition to criminal prosecution and in situations where there is no criminal prosecution for your loved one’s death.
Secondly, losing a family member can send the surviving family into a downward spiral of monetary struggles. When you factor in the lost family member’s salary, multiply it by their remaining projected working years and adjust for raises, employee benefits and pensions, it’s not uncommon for the surviving family members to be looking at millions of dollars in lost income.
If a family loses a significant percentage of their income while the household’s children are still in grade school, then you must consider how that family is going to pay for everything from clothes, food and school supplies to transportation, housing and college. If the lost parent was the primary caregiver, then you must factor in the new cost of year-round childcare, home upkeep and the many tasks they completed throughout the course of a day.
The Wrongful Death Compensation Formula
The loss of a loved one is incredibly hard to quantify, especially in monetary terms. Compensation is generally broken into three different types of damages: economic, non-economic and punitive.
These types of damages are calculated based on the monetary cost of the death in terms of wages and actual expenses that arose from the wrongful death. They often include:
- Medical costs incurred during lifesaving treatments
- Funeral expenses
- Lost benefits, such as employer health care coverage, pensions, 401(k)s, etc.
- Expected lost earnings calculated based on salary at the time of death, potential raises in the future and the number of projected working years lost
These types of damages are significantly harder to quantify monetarily, but their impact on the family is equally important, if not more impactful. This includes many emotional and parental factors such as:
- Mental anguish
- Loss of guidance
- Loss of advice, nurturing and care
- Loss of protection and security
- Loss of love, companionship and comfort
These types of damages should be looked at in a way akin to criminal prosecution. Punitive damages are generally intended to punish the negligent party and discourage them from committing similar malfeasance in the future.
Punitive damages are usually only included in a case where the responsible party acted with a high degree of recklessness and disregard for the safety of others.
How Are Non-Economic Damages Calculated?
The economic damages are easier to understand because they can be easily quantified with simple math. You may not be able to know what the future had in store for your family, but you can make informed estimates.
Things like care, mental anguish and companionship can be harder to calculate. Some of these non-economic damages may only be applicable in certain cases. Care for a child would only be applicable if the wrongful death victim were a parent of a young child, for example.
There was a time when a stay-at-home parent may not have warranted any type of compensation, but modern sensibilities and the justified acknowledgement of the value of homemakers has forced courts to take these things into account.
In order to calculate a non-economic damage like care, the court may look at the costs of housekeeping, childcare, daycare, after-school care and other domestic services the lost loved one may have provided.
If the lost loved one were already retired and passed away due to medical malpractice or nursing home negligence, they may not be eligible for care-related damages.
Get Help With Your Wrongful Death Case
If you or a friend have lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another person, medical professional, business or government agency, a wrongful death lawsuit may be an appropriate course of action. Your choice of attorney is going to have a significant impact on the types and amount of damages that can be collected, which is why it’s important to consult with several wrongful death lawyers and choose one who has extensive experience and will provide attentive representation.
Call the Law Offices of Johnny Phillips at (404) 948-3334 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We are available 24/7 to ensure we can provide assistance whenever you need us.