Children’s Wrongful Death Cases

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When the negligence of a person in California causes the loss of life to an adult, it is easier to calculate the family’s monetary loss. For instance, when wrongful death has caused the death of a parent, their child can pursue damages for the loss of support, love, guidance, care, and income of the parent. However, the damages that a loving parent can recover when the loss of a child occurs due to wrongful death are limited to loss of affection, love, and other potential economic expenses that would have been offset by what the child was expected to provide to the households of the survivors. This means survivors can also pursue that potential monetary gain; however it is normally a rather small amount due to the difficulties in proving that the now deceased suckling would have been a doctor, lawyer, or business professional.

The Bigger the Earner, the Bigger the Potential Futures

Had the child ended up becoming an adult and big earner, then the survivors are always in a stronger position to get real money when the decedent(s) finally departed life due to no fault of their own. Conversely, when an elderly person loses their life as a result of wrongful death, the same types of limitations and similar issues arise, meaning the potential for future economic recovery is limited (after all, a senior is probably no longer generating an income. There is quite a bit of speculation involved in doing a damages work up and profile of a decedent, when the wrongful death case involves these unique landmines to recovery for the loss of a child or elderly person. Harm to parents and financial loss becomes much more difficult to determine the younger the child’s age is when death occurs. Although it is partially done, estimations and complete guesswork cannot be used when determining amounts the child would have or might have contributed to the support of both their parents.

Had the child ended up becoming an adult and big earner, then the survivors are always in a stronger position to get real money when the decedent(s) finally departed life due to no fault of their own.

Life expectancy charts are often used by juries to determine a starting point to come up with an answer for such complex calculations. (See Example of a Social Security Life Expectancy Chart Here.) Typically, a life care planner is called in by both sides to argue the payout should be more, or less depending on who’s side you are on.

Rules of Court and Evidence

The Rules Court and evidence baring use of speculation, does not mean the parents will be limited to a low recovery; however the courts of California have frequently affirmed lower recovery amounts in cases that involve the loss of a child due to wrongful death. The following is a non exhaustive list of potential legal damages a parent can pursue when they have lost their child due to wrongful death:

      • Potential future earnings that are lost – This is in reference to the potential amount of earnings the child may have earned throughout their lifetime.
      • Direct expenses – This includes medical expenses, hospital bills, and the cost of the funeral.
      • Loss of consortium (companionship) – This refers to the loss of society, community (affection and love), and when it is pertinent, the monetary support the child provided and the loss of benefits they would have eligible for from retirement, a pension, or any trust, (if the child was profitably employed at the time of death).

It is not very difficult to estimate some damages like funeral costs and direct expenses that are acquired from medical bills. Other damages are much for difficult to calculate because they are more elusive, such as what would be considered as suitable for affection and love (loss of companionship). The process for calculating damages is rather complex. It is a legal analysis that includes a variety of different factors.

A few of the factors that should be taken into consideration include:

  • The level of dependency the parent had on the childThis refers to situations where the parent was supported in some way by the child. This factor can be determined by financial experts. There are several factors that the courts examine to determine the appropriate level of dependency when a parent or family member claims monetary losses. These factors include the parent or family member’s circumstances, their age, and the condition of their overall health.
  • The nature of the parent and child’s relationship – This is usually very easy to document when it is the child’s parent that is making the claim for wrongful death. There is also another requirement that has been added by some states that the child’s support was contributed to on a regular basis by the parent. This requirement helps to prevent parents that were absent on a short or long-term basis throughout the child’s life from being able to gain financially upon the death of the child.

What are the Factors?

This additionally requirement has not yet been adopted by the state of California. The closer the parent and child’s relationship is, the higher the damages will generally be. Some of the things that can help to show this relationship would include such things as home movies, joint vacations, photos, holidays, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day cards, and birthdays, etc.

  • The employment benefits and earnings that are anticipated This is often difficult to calculate due to the fact that most children have not yet started a career path.
  • The estimated lifespan for the child – Experts on human life are often consulted to calculate this.
  • The comparative fault amount (if it applies) on the child’s part –The apportionment of fault theory is recognized in the state of California.

This allows for deductions to be made to the value of the case and it is based on any percentage in fault that may have been contributed by the child, resulting in an accident that caused the loss of life. You can learn more about damages here.


UNDERSTANDING AND EVALUATING THE WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM By Angela L. Freel Rudolph, Fine, Porter & Johnson, LLP – Measure Of Damages For Wrongful Death Of A Minor Child Wrongful Death Actions in California Some Needed Amendments