Most of us would agree that our lives are worth more than our income. We are more than our jobs; we are spouses, parents, children, friends, and members of the community.
Nevertheless, when someone dies, one of the ways that loss is felt by the person’s survivors is by the loss of his or her income. This is why lost past and future income is one of the most important forms of damages that California families can collect in wrongful death litigation.
When a working-age adult is killed due to someone else’s negligence, it is fairly easy for the survivors to determine what the death has cost them, and what it will cost them in the future in terms of lost future income. But things are different when the victim was a child or elderly.
Perhaps nothing is more heartbreaking than the death of a child. But under wrongful death law, the parents’ ability to recover damages is somewhat limited, because the child almost certainly had not financial earnings. Instead, the parents can seek compensation for potential future income. Depending on the child’s age and other factors, it can be very difficult to reach an accurate speculative dollar figure.
Conversely, when the victim was elderly, the law usually presumes that his or her future earning potential would have been limited. Besides that, the victim’s children are likely adults who were no longer financially dependent upon him or her.
It is important to remember that financial compensation is just one reason to sue for wrongful death. Many families find that litigation is the best way to find out how their loved one was killed. It can also give plaintiffs a sense that the defendant is being held accountable for his or her actions.