Wrongful Death: The Monetary Aspect

Dewayne Hopson is an attorney in Clarksdale, MS. This article is for informational purposes only and by reading this article you acknowledge this general information should not be construed as legal advice.

This week we have a guest post by Job Virata from Hogan Injury Law way out in California! This article shares a lot of good information on wrongful death and monetory damages. Please enjoy! You can visit their blog here.

This article is originally posted at Hogan Injury

The loss of a loved one is a very difficult moment in any person’s life; surviving family members must continue living with the burden of severe emotional pain and significant financial loss. There are ways to get compensated for a loved one’s death; this is especially true if the death is caused by another person or entity’s negligence. This is where a wrongful death lawsuit comes in.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim for monetary compensation, also called “damages”, from a party whose carelessness resulted in another person’s death. There is a wide variety of entities which can be sued for wrongful death; individuals (usually negligent or drunk drivers who caused accidents resulting in death), companies and their employees, and even government agencies may be held liable if their negligence caused the death of an individual.

Now we come to the question that most people are afraid or embarrassed to ask, especially those who recently lost a loved one: How much money will I get for the death of my loved one? There is nothing wrong about asking this question, especially since the death of a loved one will surely affect you and your family’s financial situation.

There is no one way to compute for the value of your loved one’s life, several factors are considered and you will find some of the ways that the monetary compensation for a wrongful death lawsuit is computed below.

These are the three types of damages that fall under wrongful death lawsuit:

1. Economic damages. – These refer to the actual financial contributions that a victim would have made or given to his or her family if he or she didn’t die. The following items are included when considering economic damages: loss of expected income, loss of benefits (medical coverage, pension plan, etc.), loss of inheritance. The medical and funeral expenses caused by the victim’s death are also considered as economic damage.

2. Non-economic damages. – These refer to damages that are not easily counted and are less tangible, but often have more value than economic damages. The following can be considered as non-economic damages: mental anguish or emotional distress brought about by the death, loss of moral support from the deceased, loss of association, love, and companionship from the deceased.

3. Punitive damages. – These refer to damages that serve as punishment for a defendant who has shown bad conduct. Just take note that not all states have punitive damages.

The total monetary value of damages must not be just an estimate; it must be supported by facts and evidence about the deceased. The following factors are considered to determine the amount of the economic and non-economic damages to be awarded:

1. The age and state of health of the deceased at the time of his or her death.
2. The deceased’s earning capacity which includes his or her professional status, accomplishments, and salary.
3. The deceased’s personality, aptitude, and other attribute impacting his or her earning capability.
4. The deceased’s dependents and their ability to provide for themselves.
5. Other aspect deemed by the court as relevant.

Another thing to consider when it comes to damages is whether they can be taxed by the government. Depending on the type of damages that you win from the wrongful death lawsuit, taxes may be collected. Economic damages and non-economic damages are nontaxable as these are considered compensatory in nature, meaning that these are damages awarded to the survivors to compensate for their financial loss because of their loved one’s death. On the other hand, punitive damages are taxable since these are meant to punish the entity responsible for the death and not compensatory in nature.

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