how earnings of your spouse impact a wrongful death claims

how earnings of your spouse impact a wrongful death claims

From Shahbaz Ahmed

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If your loved one passed away, and someone was responsible for their death, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim and recover money from the responsible party. If someone was driving drunk, if a doctor was negligent, if a product malfunctioned, or if an employer was not following safety standards, and your loved one passed away, you likely have a compensable wrongful death case. If you are preparing to file one of these cases, one of the questions you may have is how the earnings of your spouse impact a wrongful death claim. It doesn't matter if your spouse was the primary earner or not, their income plays a role in how much you can recover in one of these cases. Here are a few of the different ways you can recover your spouse's wages in a wrongful death case, 

Wages That Were Lost From the Time of the Accident Until Death Occurred

If your loved one passed away and you are filing a wrongful death claim, you are entitled to any wages that were lost from the time of the accident until death occurred. Death is not always instant after an accident. Your loved one may have been incapacitated and hospitalized for weeks or months following the accident before they passed. Any wages that were lost during this timeframe may be recoverable during a wrongful death claim. You may also be able to recover money for the medical expenses during the timeframe that your loved one was alive following the accident until they passed away in a wrongful death claim. 

Lost Wages From the Date of Death to the Expected Retirement Age

If you are filing a wrongful death case, your spouse's earnings affect the claim because you are able to recover lost wages from the date of death up to the expected retirement age. Most courts look at the expected retirement date as being your loved one's 65th birthday. For example, if your loved one was currently earning $50,000 per year, and they were 55, you may be entitled to ten years of income totaling at least $50,000 per year. If your loved one was making $50,000 and they were only 25-years-old, you may be able to get a judge or jury to award you 40 years of income, as your loved one would have worked that long if not for their untimely death. 

Potentially Able to Claim Lost Earning Potential

Another factor that the court can consider when deciding on how much to award you for a wrongful death claim is any lost earning potential that your loved one may have had. This can be hard to prove, but in many cases, attorneys bring in people familiar with the line of work to show what your loved one's earning potential may have been in the field based on their age, education, and experience. If your loved one was 60, odds are, they were not going to advance very much in the industry they were already in prior to retiring. However, if your loved one was only 30, they may have been able to advance a lot in the industry they were in, and receive additional money thanks to raises. While it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what your spouse's earning potential would have been if they did not pass away, showing how much similar people in the same industry average and how quickly they advance may help you to potentially claim and recover money for lost earning potential. 

Benefits that the Spouse Provided to the Family

The salary of your spouse is not the only thing that can impact a wrongful death claim. The courts can also look at any benefits that the spouse provided for the family before their life was cut short. The most common benefit that courts look at is medical coverage. If your loved one had great medical coverage at work, and your employer does not provide medical coverage for you and your kids, the courts can award you money to cover that lost benefit. Some employers also provide their employees with extra benefits, such as tuition reimbursement or even employee-paid daycare. If you have lost out on these benefits due to your loved one's death, you may be able to recover money for them in a wrongful death claim. 

The amount that your loved one made during their life, and the estimated amount that they would have made if they were not prematurely taken from you, as well as any benefits that they received, are all calculated when determining how much you may receive in a wrongful death claim. A judge or a jury can hear testimony about current and estimated future earnings, and then use that information to help determine how much to award you, or insurance companies can look at this information when deciding how much to offer if you are looking to settle the case. Earnings play a huge role in wrongful death cases, and a great attorney can help you determine what a fair amount for your case is, based partially on your spouse's earnings. 

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