What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Suit?

Calculating the damages available in a personal injury lawsuit can be one of the trickiest parts of the suit.  If the decedent’s estate and the defendant can agree on an appropriate figure before the case proceeds to trial, then the case will settle.  However, in many cases, the two cannot agree either on liability or the appropriate amount of damages.  In that case, the award for the defendant’s negligence will be left in the hands of the jury. 

Following the presentation of evidence, the judge will instruct the jury that if they find the defendant liable of the plaintiff’s death, they should consider the following factors in determining the monetary damages.

Pecuniary Damages Minus Personal Expenses

This figure requires the jury to determine the gross amount of the decedent’s prospective income over the remainder of his life expectancy, including the value of services provided as a homemaker.  The jury is then required to deduct the estimated personal expenses that the decedent would have incurred for himself from the prospective income. 

This evidence is typically presented via expert testimony.  The expert calculates the two figures and uses a mathematical formula to reduce the lifetime figure down to its present value.

Medical Expenses

The defendant in a wrongful death suit is also liable for any hospital and medical expenses incurred between the time of injury and the death of the decedent.

Decedent’s Pain and Suffering

The decedent’s estate may recover damages for any pain and suffering suffered by the decedent prior to his death as a result of the defendant’s negligence.

Loss of Consortium

The legal term “Loss of Consortium” refers to compensation for damages that the death of the decedent has inflicted upon his family members.  This figure compensates for emotional damage. 

The decedent’s spouse may recover for loss of consortium.

The decedent’s unemancipated children may recover for loss of parental society and companionship.

If an unemancipated child dies, his parents may recover damages for loss of the minor’s society and companionship.


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