When a loved one dies suddenly, families must consider how they will make ends meet now that their loved one is gone. If a loved one’s death was the result of someone else’s negligence, you may have options. If you are able to prove negligence, you may be eligible to recover compensation for things like lost income in a wrongful death settlement.
What do I need to prove to recover damages for my loved one’s wrongful death?
You must prove the following to be eligible to file a claim to recover compensation:
- A family relationship existed (e.g., only the spouse, children, and parents of the deceased can benefit)
- A monetary loss occurred
For example, Bob is married to Brenda. Bob and Brenda have two children, Annie and Alex. Bob dies tragically in an auto accident caused by a negligent driver, John. In order for a personal representative to bring a claim on behalf of Brenda and the kids, she must show that:
- (1) Bob was her husband (proving the family relationship existed), and,
- (2) Bob would have provided income for the benefit of the family had he not been killed by Richard’s negligence (evidencing a monetary loss).
How do I account for lost income?
Because income is often the biggest measurable contribution that an individual brings to the family, one of the most important factors in determining wrongful death damages is lost future earnings. When evaluating future income, the court may consider factors such as inflation (which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has presumed to be equal to future interest rates) and increased productivity.
For example, assume that Bob was earning $50,000 per year in 2015 when he died due to defendant John’s negligence. However, as the court evaluates Bob’s income for the amount of years that his wife and children must continue on without him, the court will acknowledge that Bob’s salary would gradually increase due to inflation, so that the future equivalent of Bob’s salary would increase each year.
The Pennsylvania courts have established that factors other than actual income can also be a decedent’s earnings. For example, the courts utilize a tool called a mortality table to calculate a decedent’s life expectancy. The jury uses these tables in combination with other factors to form an opinion based on the totality of the circumstances. Other factors included in the totality of the circumstances include the decedent’s:
- Overall health
- Other relevant elements that could factor into someone’s lifespan
For example, if, at the time of his death, Bob, a banker, smoked a pack of cigarettes and ate a double cheeseburger and fries for lunch each day, the jury may assume that Bob’s life expectancy — and therefore, his expected income — would less than for someone the same age with a healthier lifestyle.
If Larry, a construction worker who makes $35,000 a year, runs three miles a day and eats a salad every day for lunch and has never smoked, he will likely receive a higher life expectancy.
Age also plays a huge factor in calculating the decedent’s life expectancy and lost income. Let us consider two cases: Carl was 35 when he died, while Dave was 55. Carl’s family will likely recover more money in lost income than Dave’s family.
If the decedent was past retirement age at the time of death, the surviving family members may be unable to recover lost income, however, they may be able to recover compensation for other benefits they would have received if the decedent had lived.
Compensation for Other Lost Benefits
Getting on after losing a family member who was a wage earner is difficult, but with the help of Cordisco & Saile LLC, it is not impossible. We can help you recover the maximum amount of damages allowable to help your family move past this tragedy and get back on your feet.
Lost income is not the only recoverable benefit. In addition to lost future earnings, there is compensation available for other lost benefits that your loved one contributed to the household. For example, a decedent’s dependents may cash in the decedent’s life insurance policy. (For more information, check out our article about cashing in a life insurance policy.) In the event of a wrongful death, life insurance money can help to recover economic damages to cover the costs of large medical or funeral expenses.
In addition, survivors may also be eligible for Social Security Survivor Benefits. Surviving spouses may be eligible to receive benefits from a pension fund or retirement account.
If the decedent’s medical insurance covered the entire family, the family may also be eligible to receive compensation for lost medical benefits. For help finding out what you and your family may be eligible for, call a Pennsylvania attorney.
Contact Cordisco & Saile LLC
Filing a wrongful death claim and figuring out what you are eligible for is difficult enough without attempting to do so while mourning a spouse, parent, or child, but you do not need to do so alone. The attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC want to do anything they can to make your life easier and to get you the compensation you and your family need and deserve.
We will gather the evidence you need to prove negligence, file your claim, and represent you in negotiations with the at-fault party. If your family has lost a loved one due to another party’s negligence, contact the compassionate wrongful death attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC at 215-642-2335 today.