Compensating for Loss
Losing a loved one is one of the most terribly painful events in any person’s life. While the presence and affection of an individual can never be replaced, the law provides compensation to the victim’s family and loved ones lost through wrongful death actions. Florida’s Wrongful Death Act allows a deceased person’s survivors and estate to recover monetary damages in situations when death is caused by wrongful acts, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty. Naturally, the application of this action covers a lot of ground. While it is impossible to replace a life, and quantifying the monetary value of a loved one is never an easy task, the determination of damages varies greatly depending on the person who has lost their life.
Survivors in a wrongful death action can generally recover for lost support and services, with interest, as well as the future loss of such advantages. Considerations for calculating such losses include the survivor’s relationship to the decedent, the amount of the decedent’s probable net income, and the replacement value of the decedent’s services to the survivor. In calculating future loses, the life expectancies of both the survivor and the victim may be considered.
Pain and Suffering
A common, and important, aspect to calculating damages is pain and suffering. In torts involving physical damages to a surviving victim, this is usually attributed to physical pain and suffering wrought from a tortious assault. In wrongful death actions, the pain and suffering of the survivors is usually associated with mental and emotional states inflicted by the loss. While pain and suffering is a common consideration in all wrongful death actions, the effect and degree of injury depends on the relationship between the parties.
Classes of Victims
Calculating damages requires identifying the victim in a way that establishes the impact of their absence on their estate and survivors. Children, parents, grandparents, and spouses all have specific considerations that affect the value of the damages assessed against a defendant. While the focus of identifying the person’s impact is often based on their station and role, the relationship of the survivor to the victim is also paramount.
In the terrible event of the death of a child, the survivors are usually parents. Children, or “Minor Children” as the statute identifies them, are persons under the age of 25, despite reaching the age of majority. The loss of a child can result in damages awarded for lost support, loss of companionship, and future damages based on life expectancy. However, when a child is lost and the surviving parents are pursuing litigation, pain and suffering damages can be extreme. It is commonly held that losing a child is among the most terrible losses a parent can experience, and when a jury is sitting in judgment they will likely consider pain and suffering as the premiere damage.
When a surviving child sues on behalf of a deceased parent, the award will still consider pain and suffering, but the primary consideration will likely be the loss of support. Losing a parent means losing support, guidance, companionship, and often an interruption of a sensitive time in a child’s life. Pain and suffering is an important consideration, as always, but the damages wrought from the lack of a parental figure tend to add up quickly when looking at the impact the loss has on the child’s life.
The natural order of things is that we grow up and are expected to pass in our twilight years. Awarding damages for the tortious shortening of a person’s life expectancy is heavily skewed towards younger victims and those with heavy responsibilities towards their survivors. The assumption that an elderly person has significantly less earning potential, and the general idea that children of these victims no longer are in need of the support and guidance of their parents, usually limits the recovery to lesser amounts.
Figuring It Out
Loss is difficult no matter who it is that is missing from your life. Sometimes just getting through the day can be challenging when someone you love is lost. It is important to get the help you need in pursuing your wrongful death claim so that you can worry less about the legal issues, and appropriately grieve for your lost loved one. The attorneys at Barrett, Fasig, & Brooks have years of experience in dealing with difficult loss and wrongful death. Contact us today to help you through this difficult time.