Full Value of Life: What it Means in Court

Losing a loved one is one of the worst things in life. As though the pain of the emotional loss is not bad enough, many complications tend to go along with that loss. When the lost loved one was also the primary earner for a family, questions about how the family will cope financially rise to the surface. When the deceased was the victim of wrongful death, there will also be legal proceedings that need handling.

A tombstone in a cemetry

Hiring a wrongful death attorney is one of the best ways to relieve the extra burden from those struggling with grief and assure them that the matter is in good hands. Everyone knows there is no way to properly assess the value of life.

Money can never make up for what was lost. However, in this type of situation, it is necessary. Those left behind deserve to receive money to help them survive after their loved one has passed, even if that money can’t help with their emotional suffering.

How Is the Value of a Life Calculated?

Several factors are considered when determining how much money a family deserves for the death of a loved one in a wrongful death claim. Every state has different things that they take into account when determining a payment amount. Aside from potential earnings lost, pain and suffering must also be figured in when paying out a wrongful death claim.

When determining the full value of life, some states have caps on the amount a family can receive for pain and suffering, while other states have deemed that to be unconstitutional as it does not take into account any of the particulars regarding the death of the individual.

Holding money whilst using a calculator

The amount that a person’s life is worth in pain and suffering is simply incalculable from a moral perspective and very difficult for anyone to come to a consensus upon legally speaking. The majority of people view human life as priceless, so any amount is too little. When determining a value, you also have to think about the societal impact.

Determining the part of the claim based on potential earnings seems a lot easier. Many algorithms have been created to determine how much a person would conceivably have earned throughout the rest of their life had they not died early. However, this number is also fraught with complications.

Discrimination in Wrongful Death Claims

One of the biggest problems when determining the value of a person’s life based on future earnings potential is discrimination. Many forensic economists responsible for determining the value of life in wrongful death claims use algorithms highly discriminatory against women and people of color.

The fact is that there are many pay gaps in the United States, with white men at the top making the most money and Hispanic women at the bottom earning the least. Forensic economists are people of numbers. Like many people who spend all of their time with numbers, they have a hard time looking past the figures at the human side of things. They look at the raw data.

Handing out money

When looking at this data, they determine that since a white man is likely to make more money in his lifetime than a woman of color, his life is worth more in a wrongful death claim. Civil rights groups have called for an end to this practice. Calculating value in this manner continues to compound upon the discriminatory conditions that make white men more likely to earn money than women of color in the first place.

Pay gaps are a societal problem. This problem feeds into a lot of the overall domestic issues that exist in the United States. Everyone deserves to have the same opportunities to succeed. For the betterment of society, pay gaps need to be eliminated. They certainly shouldn’t follow a person into death. Making a value of life claim based on these factors assumes that progress is impossible and inequality will continue unchecked forever.

Lawmakers have attempted to pass legislation to prohibit taking gender and race into consideration when determining a life’s value. Instead, the value of every life should be calculated using the formula currently used exclusively for white men. Unfortunately, none of these laws have been passed yet.

There is a quicker way to a resolution, though. Civil rights groups have petitioned the National Association of Forensic Economists (NAFE) to change their policies to disallow this practice. NAFE has the ability to simply update its code of ethics so that its forensic economists are no longer able to look at race or sex when determining the value of life.

No Amount Is Enough

Even if a family received one trillion dollars for the death of a loved one, it would not be enough. Nothing can replace a human being. However, money is the best option available in our society since bringing the person back to life is impossible. At the very least, we can hopefully agree that one person is not worth any less than another person based on discriminatory calculations.

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