The Wrongful Death of a Child or an Elderly Person
No matter what the age of the loved one you have lost, the grief is powerful. The law, however, often takes age into account when it assesses your loss. Because your loved one cannot be replaced, the law is at a disadvantage to truly compensate you. Money is one measure that the legal system can objectively use to reflect what has been lost. For more information on how the law applies to the wrongful death of your child or elderly relative, contact a personal injury attorney.
The Wrongful Death of a Child
When an adult dies, it is easier for a court to quantify the economic loss. The court can consider the wages the person earned and how he or she contributed to the finances of the family. A minor child (under the age of 18) is typically not contributing to the household income, but a child contributes in other ways. Parents therefore can recover, in most states, for the loss of the child’s companionship and affection.
Parents who can recover for the death of a child generally include the child’s mother, the child’s acknowledged father or the child’s adoptive parents. People who act as the child’s parents, but are not legally the child’s parents, usually cannot recover compensation.
When an adult child suffers a wrongful death, the court may approach the situation from a different angle. For the parents to recover, often the child must have been contributing money to the parents’ household or providing valuable services to the parents. This view of the law, however, varies from state to state. Whether the child was married also may affect the parents’ rights.
The law changes when an unborn child has suffered a wrongful death. In some jurisdictions, the success of a wrongful death claim depends on whether the fetus was viable (able to live outside the womb) at the time of death. Other states allow or disallow such a wrongful death claim whether the fetus was viable or not. An experienced attorney can offer you insight on your own state’s laws.
The Wrongful Death of an Elderly Person
The wrongful death of an elderly person can leave the spouse or children with a loss of both companionship and monetary contributions. The surviving spouse may have been relying on the pension of the deceased; if the pension plan does not have a survivorship benefit, the spouse may have lost quite a bit of money due to the death of his or her loved one. Many courts will take this into account when calculating damages. Courts also may take into account the companionship, guidance and affection provided by the elderly person to the children or spouse.
On the other hand, the court will also factor in the age of the decedent; the damages will be calculated taking all of these elements into consideration. Some courts also look at whether the loved one experienced pain and suffering before passing away.
Contact an Attorney
Because the laws on wrongful death — especially the wrongful death of a young victim or older victim — are complex and change so dramatically from state to state, it is best to consult an attorney for guidance. Contact a wrongful death lawyer for more information.