If the person who has been taken from the family was a wage earner, then the monies that were coming into the household are recoverable. You have to deduct what the decedent, the person who passed away, would have spent on themselves, but the remainder of the money flowing to the house, that the family depended upon to survive is completely collectible. That amount has to be analyzed and calculated, not just for one year but for the remainder of the decedent’s work life. If a shorter period of time needs to be considered, then that has to be considered as well. That’s the biggest economic loss and the one that’s easiest to understand.
Many times, there are children who are lost in accidents that are not wage earners, but they bring a lot to the family. In case of a spouse who may not be working, or even if they are working, the biggest loss to the family that depends upon them is the companionship and guidance that that person provided. For example, in a typical household, the husband and wife spend three to four hours each evening together before one of them falls asleep. They make dinner and watch TV or they may go to a movie. That’s called companionship those losses have a monetary value.
The Court allows for you to calculate a monetary value that is associated with the loss of that companionship. No one would ever actually do this, but the Court permits a calculation to be made which is based upon how much time that each dependent spent with the decedent and to replace that time with a cost of hiring a companion. It begins with determining what it costs to hire a companion on the open market. This would be somebody who is employed to stay with someone who is disabled or stay with an older person. Currently on the open market, those persons charge approximately $18 an hour.
Taking the example of a husband and wife who spent four hours together each day; the calculation would be 4 hours a day times 365 days a year, and you would then multiply that number of hours by the number of years that they were expected to be together, which would be the shorter of their two life expectancies. Take that result and multiply that by $18 an hour. That would give you a gross value of the loss of companionship services to your spouse. Since that money would have been obtained over time, you would bring it down to today’s value, which is called present value. Usually we would engage an Expert Economist who would calculate the loss of companionship.
Similarly, with a child, you have to calculate the amount of time that you spend together which would be the loss of your child’s companionship. In addition to that, there is loss of household services. In a child’s case, it could be just taking out the garbage, shoveling the snow, cutting the grass, or helping around the house. With regard to a spouse, it could be those things and more, like fixing something in the house; whether it’s changing a light bulb to replacing a light switch, anything that the spouse was likely to do. Those values are determined by what it would cost to hire someone to perform those services.
Going beyond that, you also have to consider the advice and counsel that the spouse would have provided to you. Primarily, it’s between spouses, but it could also be between parents and children, or siblings. In addition, in the case of the loss of a child, the parents would be asked, “Did you have an expectation that when you got older, your children were going to take care of you?” Again, that has large value.
Generally, you will hire an Expert Economist in these cases. An economist is someone with the correct educational credentials who reviews all the material and determines what these values are. They generally have doctorates or masters degrees or are accountants, and have spent a lot of time studying and working with these calculations. For example, they have the ability to determine the earlier figure of $18 per hour for a companion, which I pulled right out of an economist’s report.
They are also able to figure out what the cost of things might increase in future years. They are able to apply the appropriate discount rates to obtain present values of these numbers. The Expert Economist is also in the best position to pull it all together, calculate the loss of wages that come into the house, the loss of companionship, the loss of advice, and the loss of services for each of the actual dependents.
The person who lost their spouse has their own damages, and the children who have lost their mother have their own damages. They are all calculated separately and then the Expert Economist pulls it all together into a report and if need be, also provides testimony in Court to explain to a Jury how all these things are calculated and what all these values are.
It’s very complicated and it’s very difficult to do these calculations without the assistance of an Expert Economist of very high caliber who will be available later to provide testimony in Court proving their calculations.
If you are need information regarding Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit, call the office of David Maran Esq. for a FREE Initial Consultation at (973) 622-5303 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.