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Calculating compensation in personal injury cases

Quite a bit of work goes into calculating the proper damage award to seek after a serious personal injury or wrongful death. Some items, like hospital bills, can be determined with great accuracy. Others, like pain and suffering, can be difficult to pin down. Still other issues are straightforward in some cases and difficult in others. For instance, how do you calculate the lost income of a child killed in a car accident?

Lifetime earnings vary widely from one individual to the next. Even after a person has completed his or her education, calculating the total income of years or decades is tenuous. When analyzing the future income of a child, the outcome is as much guesswork as science. Over the years, many jurisdictions have adopted an approach puts some victims at an unfair disadvantage. The use of tables that account for race and gender to predict future earnings has begun to draw heavy criticism. These critics question the propriety of placing a different, lower value on the lives of women and people of color. 

Monetary Damages In Wrongful Death Cases

The average woman makes less than the average man. This is a statement of fact in the United States. Whether you regard that as a problem to correct or a mere reflection of cumulative personal choices is something you can debate on Facebook. It is also true that the average white person makes more than the average Hispanic or black person. The question is, does that justify the legal determination that a mother who has lost her daughter to a drunk driver deserves less than she would if she had lost a son? Does that justify ordering smaller settlements for families whose lost loved one was a person of color? Should courts engage in an analysis of how much a person is worth based on that person's gender and race?

It should not be a controversial statement that the loss of a white male is no more tragic than the loss of a female or person of color. A negligent party should not get a discount for injuring a woman instead of a man. Some courts, and even entire countries, have rejected the race- and gender-based approach to valuing life. When the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was established with differing payments for women, men, white people and people of color, public outcry forced a change in policy. That Fund was changed to acknowledge that gender and race play no part in determining the value of a person's life. Courts all across the country should follow suit.

Source: The Washington Post, "In one corner of the law, minorities and women are often valued less," by Kim Soffen, 25 October 2016 

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