Those are of course, the most difficult kinds of cases that can be presented. Difficult because they’re heart-rendering. The loss of a child is just something that is devastating. And it’s devastating and very difficult for the attorney to handle it because it’s impossible not to become emotionally involved. Now, in any wrongful death case, the next of kin, and in the case of a minor child, the next of kin are the parents, have a claim. It’s called Survivorship Acts, and they’re the survivors. What they’re entitled to recover is technically not compensation for their grief, but compensation for the loss of the companionship of the child that they would have otherwise experienced. And to the extent that that child would have provided some economic benefit to the parents, for example, maybe they were counting on that child to support them when they got older. If they can prove that, then they’re entitled to those economic damages.
As cold as it seems, to be deducted from what compensation the parents will receive is what it would’ve cost to maintain the child, had he or she not been killed. It would have cost money to feed the child, to house the child, to clothe the child, to educate the child until the child attained age 21 or 22, or maybe earned an advanced degree at age 26. That could have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And hard-hearted as it sounds, those hundreds of thousands of dollars are considered a savings that the parents receive because of the death of their child. They no longer have an obligation to pay for those expenses.
Whatever that amount might be gets deducted from whatever other calculation you give them for the pleasure they would have had watching their child grow up, sitting around the dinner table at Thanksgiving, the benefit of having that child celebrate the holidays with the family, the benefit of seeing that child get married and have children of his own or her own, and being able to enjoy and play with grandchildren. And you measure that over the number of years that the parent or parents are expected or reasonably expected to live. So, if you have a 50-year-old man who lost a 12-year-old child, that father might have a life expectancy of another 30 years. You don’t go by the child’s life expectancy, how long that child would have lived, but for the accident. You go by the parent. The father in this case, another 30 or 35 years, he gets compensated for what would have been over that 35 years.
What the non-economic benefit of having a child that he loved in his presence to play with, to teach, to do things with, to watch grow up, and to enjoy the companionship of, that gets measured in dollars and cents, as hard as that is to do. And then the funeral cost, which is maybe $5,000 or $10,000 gets added in there. But then deducted from that is the cost and expense that would have have been incurred by the surviving parent to raise that child to maturity, to adulthood, or beyond.