Under California civil statutes, immediate family members financially impacted by someone’s untimely death have the right to pursue a civil lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit can provide financial compensation for spouses, children, parents and other family members who are grieving someone’s loss and worried about the economic realities of someone’s unexpected passing.
One of the more important elements of a successful wrongful death lawsuit involves properly valuing what the death will cost the family. Families often understand that they can claim funeral expenses and medical costs, as well as lost wages. There are two types of financial losses people are more likely to overlook in a wrongful death lawsuit that they may need to account for before committing to a legal strategy.
Lost future earning potential
Making a claim for lost wages is often one of the most important contributing factors to a wrongful death lawsuit. If someone had 30 more years of productive employment ahead of them, their unexpected passing could deprive their family of millions of dollars in income. Too many families just multiply someone’s salary the year that they died by the number of years left before their retirement. They will fail to consider that someone may have received raises and promotions. If nothing else, most employers will occasionally adjust what they pay workers so that they can maintain the same standard of living, which they may refer to as a cost-of-living wage adjustment. Family members will have to consider how someone’s income and career would have improved over the years and then adjust the lost wages they claim accordingly.
Unpaid household work
Someone’s value to a family from an economic sense is not only about what work they do for employers. The uncompensated work that they do in the family home is also incredibly valuable. Services like food preparation, grocery shopping, childcare and cleaning are all very expensive when outsourced to third-party service providers. Stay-at-home parents contribute services that would earn them a very competitive salary if they did the same work for hire in many cases. Families will either need to absorb more unpaid work or hire others, both of which have economic implications for the surviving family members.
Carefully considering all of the ways in which someone’s untimely death will affect their family can help those who file wrongful death claims pursue appropriate compensation given the consequences their family experienced – and will continue to experience – after losing a loved one.