How Can Anyone Decide How Much a Life Is Worth?
Thursday, January 12, 2017By Richard Alexander
Wrongful death cases present an issue that is almost unfathomable to people outside the legal field: How do you value the premature loss of a human life? The best that the legal system can do is to try to compensate those left behind with money damages, which are never adequate to replace their loved one. Have you ever wondered how lawyers and courts try to accomplish this impossible task?
A wrongful death case seeks to recover money damages for the loss of a loved one due to the wrongdoing of another person. The way these cases are handled is dictated by state laws and court cases.
In California, only certain types of money damages may be recovered in a wrongful death case. Generally speaking, these fall into the following categories:
- the loss of support and services;
- the loss of the person's companionship;
- an amount for the person's funeral and medical expenses; and
- an amount to compensate those left behind for their grief and suffering.
Punitive damages, which refers to money designed to punish the person for causing the death, are usually not allowed in California wrongful death action. However, there are a few exceptions, and punitive damages may be awarded in a different type of action known as a "survival" lawsuit.
From a practical standpoint, many factors can affect the damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit, such as these:
- the age of the person lost;
- that person's earning capacity;
- the amount of medical and funeral bills;
- whether the person has any dependents;
- whether the person is married; and
- the closeness between family members.
It never feels right to place a value on the life of a person lost too soon. However, a skilled wrongful death attorney can help sort out the money damages that might be awarded after such a devastating loss. For help, contact the California accident lawyers at Alexander Law Group, LLP for a free, no obligation consultation. Call 888.777.1776 to speak with an attorney right now. Delays can harm your case.