Wrongful death claims: When a child is lost

Parents of young children may be able to pursue wrongful death damages if their child died in an accident caused by someone else's negligence. However, wrongful death claims relating to children present unique challenges.

When it comes to the death of an adult, courts can calculate financial losses by looking at the adult's income and future income-generating capacity. It is also possible to estimate the value of domestic services provided by an adult. However, with children, damages related to future earning capacity and the potential for offering future care to the parents are much more difficult to estimate.

Determining financial losses after the death of a child

In most wrongful death claims for children, the parents' recovery is limited to financial losses resulting from the death of the children. For the reasons mentioned above, these losses may not be easy to determine. However, courts and juries may attempt to estimate such damages based on the following categories of facts and information:

  • The life expectancy, age, habits and health of the child
  • The future earning potential of the child upon entering adulthood
  • The ages, health and personal circumstances of the individuals claiming financial loss as a result of the child's death

Additional considerations for child wrongful death claims

The younger a child happens to be, the more difficult it is to speculate and estimate the pecuniary losses resulting from the death. For example, if the death related to a 17-year-old child -- who was an honor-roll student, was accepted to an Ivy League university and received a soccer scholarship -- it might be possible to estimate his or her future earning capacity. In comparison, a 7-year-old child has yet to develop such a clear life trajectory.

Parents who lose a child due to someone else's negligence will want to be strategic in the way they approach their wrongful death personal injury claims. This will help to ensure that they honor the memory of their child while appropriately pursuing justice and financial compensation for their devastating loss.

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