Money is often the last thing on anyone’s mind after losing someone in a tragic accident. But the fact is that every death has a profound and long-lasting effect on the people who are left behind, and sometimes the toll that the loss takes is at least partially financial.
Filing a wrongful death claim can be one way to hold negligent parties accountable for the financial aspects of an untimely death. Of course it cannot undo the devastation that a victim’s loved ones have suffered, but it can ease some of the anxiety of trying to move on by compensating people for the economic and non-economic damages suffered as a result of wrongful death.
Courts can award financial compensation that is intended to reflect the financial loss of a person. This is referred to as pecuniary loss. What this means is that the courts will try to measure the actual monetary damage suffered as a result of a person’s death. The courts will consider a wide range of factors including lost income, loss of parental guidance and support, funeral expenses, medical bills and future earning capacity in determining the extent of pecuniary injuries.
This can be an extraordinarily difficult aspect of a wrongful death claim for families, as it attempts to put a price on a person’s life, and there is no way to truly express a person’s worth in numbers or dollars. But as difficult as it may seem, this is the way the court system works to try and account for a loss.
There are also punitive damages that can be awarded on top of these other damages. Often, these damages reflect instances where malicious or reckless behaviors contributed to a loss. Punitive damages can be substantial and are primarily intended to punish the liable party; they often make up a large portion of the compensation total awarded to those who filed the wrongful death claim.
People who are struggling with grief, sadness and fear after losing a loved one understand that money cannot bring someone back or make the pain go away. However, it can help people support themselves after a loss and hold those responsible for that loss accountable, which can both be critical pieces of coping with a death and trying to move forward.