This is the next post in our series on the handling of Minnesota wrongful death cases. Our last article provided an overview of topics that this series will address and stressed the need to contact a personal injury attorney if a loved one has been killed by another’s negligence. It is important to contact counsel sooner rather than later to make sure your rights are fully protected. In this post we will discuss an important topic – how to calculate the damages of surviving victims. While money cannot undo the harm that has been done, it can ensure that surviving loved ones do not suffer additional difficulties. If you require assistance, contact our office today to speak with a Rochester lawyer. We also handle matters in Owatonna and elsewhere.
There are multiple components used in calculating a surviving family’s damages. We will discuss some of these in turn.
Rochester families are entitled to compensation for economic losses created by a wrongful death
Obvious problems arise for Rochester families who have lost someone in a wrongful death. The loss of a loved one may also mean lost income that the family depended on. There are other costs incurred in a death, including funeral and burial expenses. If family members do not recover these damages they may face unnecessary hardship.
A family is entitled to the amount of money the deceased would have been expected to earn over his or her lifetime if the accident * hadn’t happened. Calculation of this amount often requires the use of economic and vocational experts. These professionals develop a model that considers the deceased’s age, profession, education level, job skills, and other factors. This model is used to determine the amount that someone with the deceased’s characteristics would have earned for the family. In a trial, the family’s experts present their opinions to the jury and the defense presents the opinions of its experts. Jurors are responsible for determining the amount the survivors are entitled to receive.
Families also can be financially impacted by new expenses caused by the death of a loved one. Say, for example, the deceased was a homemaker whose spouse works full time. The surviving spouse may now have to pay for day care, nanny services, or other assistance to complete tasks previously performed by the deceased. These services, although not income, were a financial contribution to the household. The surviving family members are entitled to compensation for the newly required expenses. Again, it is the role of the jury to determine a final amount.
Also, family members are entitled to damages for the loss of the deceased’s aid, comfort, advice, and companionship. It goes without saying that a wrongful death is devastating to surviving family members. A financial award can be made based on such suffering.
Rochester and Owatonna wrongful death victims may be entitled to punitive damages
If evidence shows that a death was caused by truly egregious or reckless conduct, the surviving family members may be entitled to punitive damages. The damages described above are instances in which compensation is needed for money the survivors have lost. Punitive damages, by contrast, are not based on money lost but on a determination to “punish” truly reckless actors. Punitive damages are rare, but when awarded are typically in an amount the jury considers necessary to punish the offender and to dissuade such conduct in the future.
Calculating damages in a wrongful death case is a complicated matter. Our Rochester injury attorneys are experienced in handling such cases and we are ready to assist you. Call today to speak with a lawyer. We also serve SE Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.
*A note about language:
Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”