Wrongful Death: Children and Old People

Determining the value of human life is not easy but this is exactly what the jury in a wrongful death lawsuit has to due. Generally, the financial loss to the family will be one of the main factors that jury will consider when determining the compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. When the deceased victim is a child or an older adult, it can create certain problems when determining the amount of compensation.


If the deceased victim is an adult, it is much easier to determine the compensation. For example, in case of an adult victim, the compensation can be determined by comparing the present income and future employment prospects of the adult. However, when the deceased victim is a child, the compensation is often limited to pecuniary loss which may be very limited.

Generally, when the deceased victim is a child, the amount of compensation will depend on:

  • The sex, age, expected life span, health and mannerism of the child
  • The potential earning capacity of the child
  • The relationship between the claimant(s) and the deceased child
  • The age, health and circumstances of the claimant(s)

There is a lot of speculation involved. The younger the deceased child, the more difficult it is to determine the pecuniary loss to the claimant(s). The jury may consider the child’s potential to contribute to the parent’s support but the jury cannot just estimate or guess these bits of information. The life expectancy of the child will be an important factor that the jury will consider. While there is nothing to limit the amount that the jury may determine as appropriate compensation, the courts tend to affirm small awards when the deceased is a child.

Unborn Children

Whether or not a wrongful death claim is possible for the death of an unborn child, it will mainly depend on the state law. State law varies on whether a person can file a wrongful death claim for the death of an unborn child. In many states, a claim for wrongful death can only be filed if the deceased was alive at the time of death, i.e. the child must have been born alive. By this standard, the death of an unborn child will generally not give rise to a wrongful death claim. Speak to an experienced wrongful death attorney in your state to know the exact position of your state law.

Old People

The death of an old person is just like the death of a child. Often there are limits to the amount of compensation that can be claimed. Often the compensation awarded is a modest amount. There are many reasons for this. The main reason is that when a person crosses the age of retirement, it is assumed that he or she has limited earning potential. The children of old people are generally adults and no longer need any support from them.

If you are a surviving relative of a deceased child or old person, consult an experienced wrongful death attorney in your state to know your options about making a wrongful death claim.

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