Understanding pecuniary damages in a wrongful death suit

| Jan 19, 2021 | Wrongful death |

If you’re considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s important to understand how damages are measured when judges and juries award compensation or settlements with the at-fault parties get negotiated.

The primary damages are usually financial – also referred to as “pecuniary.” Let’s take a look at what this means and see some examples.

How are pecuniary damages determined?

The pecuniary injuries or damages suffered with the loss of a loved one typically include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of financial support if the surviving family depended on the deceased person’s income
  • Loss of services if the decedent took care of the house and children, for example

Some of these damages, like medical and funeral expenses, can be proven with invoices and receipts. Those that deal with the loss of future earnings and services get based on the person’s age, health and life expectancy at the time they died.

Damages are also calculated based on the victim’s income history, what they actually contributed to the household and family and the likelihood that they would have continued to provide income and/or services for the family had they lived. Sometimes, expert witnesses are called in to explain how the plaintiffs arrived at the amount being sought for these things.

Other types of damages

In addition to pecuniary damages, plaintiffs can seek noneconomic damages for things like pain and suffering and loss of companionship. In some cases, plaintiffs can seek punitive damages. Here in Pennsylvania, these are allowed if a defendant’s actions were malicious, willful and/or showed a wanton disregard for the safety of the victim or others.

A wrongful death suit can help a family seek justice for their loved one in addition to whatever criminal charges may be brought against those responsible for the death. It can also provide surviving loved ones with the compensation they need as they move forward. An experienced attorney can help you work to seek that justice and compensation.