How Florida Values a Life in a Wrongful Death Claim
In a typical personal injury claim, the plaintiff demands compensation from a liable defendant equal to the real damages they suffered as a result of their negligence or wrongdoing. For example, in an auto accident claim, you will ask for money equal to the cost of your medical bills, the price to repair or replace your vehicle, and the amount of wages you did not earn due to your injury, as well as some noneconomic damages related to your pain and suffering. In a wrongful death lawsuit, though, attorneys face the difficult task of assessing how much should be given to the surviving family of someone who has lost their life in an accident. That is to say, they have to try to calculate the value of a person’s life, which is clearly no easy accomplishment.
What Does Florida Say About the Value of a Life?
Florida Statutes section 768.21 contains the state’s guidelines for wrongful death claims, including acceptable damages that can be sought by the plaintiff. In some way, this tells us what Florida thinks a life is worth, and how that number can be reached.
The surviving family members of a decedent can seek damages related to:
- Lost support, services, and companionship provided to the plaintiff by the decedent.
- Emotional and mental suffering of a parent plaintiff due to losing a child.
- Funeral and burial expenses paid by a plaintiff.
The estate of the decedent may seek damages related to:
- Lost wages, employment benefits, and other various earnings the decedent would have likely earned had they not passed away.
- Lost estate value that would have predictably scaled upwards during the decedent’s life, such as lost savings account growth across many years.
- Funeral and burial expenses paid using estate funds.
Some of the key forms of damages that can contribute to the “value” of the decedent’s life are purely noneconomic, meaning they are not tied to any concrete receipt, bill, fee, or cost. Wrongful death attorneys will usually calculate these damages by taking the amount of actual damages — lost wages, lost estate value, funeral costs, final medical costs, etc. — and multiplying it by a factor that increases based on the perceived emotional and mental trauma suffered by the plaintiff. For example, the economic damages will be multiplied by a larger factorial for a mother suing after the loss of her child than compared to the damages sought by a distant uncle who only met the child once.
Furthermore, the Florida Supreme Court ruled swatted down an imposed wrongful death damage cap last year in a lawsuit filed against a tobacco company. This is an encouraging legal move, as it says the state values finding closure and peace of mind for a wrongful death claimant in the face of insurance company protests.
Did you lose a loved one in an accident that was not their fault? Call (850) 764-0383 to talk to The Pittman Firm, P.A. in Florida about how to file a wrongful death claim. The law firm offers free case evaluations to inquiring clients.