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How do courts value children's lives in wrongful death cases?

When a person in West Virginia dies in a fatal accident like a car crash, a representative for that person's estate may be able to pursue a wrongful death cause of action against any parties whose actions may have led to the death. Typically, a spouse or other close family member is the representative, and they will ultimately get any compensation, through the deceased person's estate, that results from the legal action.

One of the biggest sources of damages in wrongful death cases is the lost value of the victim's life to the surviving family members. While no amount of money can replace the loss of a loved one, courts do have to come up with a figure somehow. In cases where the victim had a job and contributed financially to the family, the court can estimate the person's lost wages over the course of their expected remaining life. But, what happens when the victim is a child? How do courts value the loss of a child who wasn't even old enough to work?

Although the laws vary from state-to-state, in general courts may look at a number of factors when trying to determine the financial value of a child's life. The age of the child, his or her health and life expectancy are all part of the equation. In addition, courts also try to evaluate the child's earning potential, though this can be much trickier for younger children. Furthermore, the circumstances of the relationship between the deceased child and his or her parents can help to determine the financial loss.

The bottom line is that nothing is set in stone when it comes to trying to award damages for the wrongful death of a child. Many of these calculations and factors may seem cold-hearted, but civil law has no means of compensating surviving family other than through monetary awards. Likewise, a civil action may be the best way that parents can hold a negligent party responsible for causing the death of a child. The advice of an attorney -- which this post does not contain -- can provide readers with more information.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Cases: Children and the Elderly," Accessed July 1, 2015

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