The Hidden Complications in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death actions, like personal injuries, operate to assign “fault.” What sets wrongful death actions apart is that they are not brought surviving family members but by the decedent’s estate, a decedent is a person who has passed away. This particular legal maneuver limits the kind of damages that can be recovered. A Boulder injury attorney from the Sloat & Nicholson, P.C. Law Firm can help you.
Wrongful death actions, unlike personal injury claims, are limited to economic damages. Economic damages are things you can measure like lost wages, medical bills, and repairs. Conversely, noneconomic damages are things you cannot, like pain or emotional distress.
As a surviving family member, you can bring your own lawsuit for emotional distress or loss of companionship but this is a separate lawsuit. Depending on the court and judge, you might be able to join the actions into single lawsuit however this is not a guarantee.
Unfortunately, economic damages are usually relatively minor. The real dispute centers on what is referred to as economic potential. Economic potential is like an expanded way to measure lost wages. For a lost wages claim, you add up the number of days you missed due to an accident and multiply that by the amount you earn per day.
Economic potential is how much you are able to produce in your life. It is based on your age, health, education, work history and ability to bear children, form adult relationships and maintain a family. Essentially everything that you can accomplish during your life is valued. The court adds up all of this potential and assigns a value to represent the amount lost.
As you probably noticed, a lot of this is based upon work potential and health. This means if your loved one was elderly or sick then the amount you can recover is significantly less. This is due to the fact that they are probably not working, they are unable to bear children and they are approaching the end of their life, they have very little economic potential. So, as far as the court is concerned, even though a life was lost the economic damages are small because he or she was nearing the end of their economic potential.
The unfortunate effect is that many of these lawsuits, which may have valid claims, are not prosecuted.
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