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If you have lost a family member in a wrongful death accident, then you know just how painful it can be. No amount of money can ever truly compensate for losing a child, spouse, or another family member. However, your family may be eligible to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit if the death was caused by the negligent or intentional act of another. If this is an option you have begun to consider, then you may be wondering how much your case could be worth, and a key component of answering this question is first explaining how life expectancy is calculated in wrongful death claims.
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WHAT IS LIFE EXPECTANCY?
Life expectancy is the amount of time that an individual would be expected to live based on actuarial data. Though life expectancy can’t be predicted with any degree of certainty, calculating life expectancy attempts to give a rough estimate of how much longer a person has based on many factors, including their current age, their personal and family medical history, lifestyle choices, and many more.
WHY IS LIFE EXPECTANCY NEEDED IN A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
Not only can family members in wrongful death claims seek compensation for past expenses, like medical bills and funeral expenses, but they may also seek damages for future costs. Determining the value of these future damages requires as accurate an estimate as possible of how long the deceased might have lived for had it not been for the accident.
Future damages may include costs like wages that the deceased would have earned, as well as any pension or retirement benefits that may have accrued. For example, a spouse may be entitled to the financial support that their deceased spouse would have provided, which would have lasted until the end of the deceased’s projected life expectancy. Thus, the longer the life expectancy that can be established, the higher the final number in future damages may be.
FACTORS THAT DETERMINE LIFE EXPECTANCY
Life expectancy depends on many factors that vary widely depending on where you live, the situation that you were born into, and the life choices that you have made. Thus, it can be a complicated process to calculate life expectancy in a wrongful death case. The following are some of the more important factors when it comes to answering this critical question.
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The age of the deceased is the starting point in determining life expectancy for obvious reasons. The younger a person is, the more life they will generally have left to live. If the deceased had a lot of working years ahead of them, then a wrongful death case based on their death might be worth more than somebody who was nearing retirement age.
Women tend to live longer than men. This fact may be fairly widely recognized, but the difference between life expectancies of men and women might be more dramatic than you would expect. In the United States, according to the Population Reference Bureau, the average male is expected to live around five fewer years than the average female. As such, women generally have a longer life expectancy than men.
Health conditions can also impact life expectancy. If an individual has a certain life-threatening health condition, then it is likely that their projected life expectancy will be shorter than an individual who has a clean bill of health. For example, someone who suffers from diabetes may not be expected to live as long as someone who doesn’t. This does not always turn out to be the case, but again, calculating life expectancy relies on averages based on large groups of people.
Lifestyle, Habits, and Hobbies
The first three categories discussed dealt largely with things that are out of a person’s control. However, the lifestyle choices that someone makes can also have an impact on their projected life expectancy. In this category, perhaps the most important single habit that comes into play when determining life expectancy is smoking. Smoking leads to a whole host of potential health complications, and these, in turn, lead to a shorter projected life expectancy for smokers.
While smoking is the major player in this category, other hobbies or lifestyle choices can also play a role in determining life expectancy. Particularly dangerous hobbies, for example, might mean a shorter life expectancy. Examples of these sorts of hobbies can include mountain biking, rock climbing, or wakeboarding. While there are certainly safer ways to participate in these hobbies and protective equipment to make them safer, on the whole, they will reduce life expectancy.
Like habits and hobbies, certain jobs may be more dangerous than others. For example, construction involves working in both dangerous locations and with dangerous equipment, so life expectancy for construction workers might be shorter. In contrast, jobs that don’t include inherently dangerous activity, such as an office job, might lead to a longer life expectancy.
WHAT ARE LIFE EXPECTANCY TABLES?
Life expectancy tables are a way to quantify the factors that impact life expectancy. Though they can appear to be a lot to take in if you don’t have experience working with them, they are a relatively straightforward way to estimate life expectancy. A good example of what a typical life expectancy table looks like can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website.
Life expectancy tables will usually give a few different types of information. First, because it is one of the important factors in determining life expectancy, they will usually be divided between male and female statistics. From there, the table will list ages from 0 to 120 or so vertically moving downward along the y-axis of the table. Each of these ages indicates the age of the person that you are looking for information on at the time that you are seeking it.
The life expectancy number shows the number of years that a person at the given age will typically have left in an average lifespan.
One of the columns included on the table will typically be death probability. This number represents the likelihood that a person of a given age will die within one year. This number will be very low with younger people and gradually increase with age. A closely related statistic that is also often found on life expectancy tables is the number of lives out of a given number. This statistic reflects how many survivors would be expected out of the starting number however many years after birth.
WILL A WRONGFUL DEATH SETTLEMENT BE LESS IF LIFE EXPECTANCY IS SHORTER?
Many factors can impact the amount of a wrongful death settlement.
First, the victim’s family may seek compensation for the economic expenses incurred after the accident, such as medical costs that were incurred before their passing, as well as the expenses for funeral and burial, which can be quite hefty. There are also potential non-economic damages available for the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before their passing, as well as for the emotional pain and suffering that their family members experience as a result of losing a loved one.
Wrongful death cases may also compensate for lost earning potential. Because the person who passed away can no longer work and provide a benefit for their family, these lost earnings may also factor into a settlement agreement. Calculating life expectancy is critical in wrongful death claims. Typically, an older person will be entitled to less in this category of damages because they were likely near the end of their working life. Conversely, a young professional might be entitled to a larger number in this category because they had a lot of working years ahead of them.
Families of child victims are not often entitled to a large amount of lost earning potential because of how speculative it would be to attempt to map out their career path.
OUR WRONGFUL DEATH LAWYERS ARE HERE TO HELP
You should not try to navigate this complicated time by yourself. Negotiating a settlement by yourself could mean that you end up receiving less or being taken advantage of by another party. We believe that the families of accident victims shouldn’t need to worry about affording legal representation, which is why we work on a contingency fee basis. You don’t pay us anything unless we win your case.
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