Death Claims After Car Accidents

It’s one thing to tell an adjuster that you have a permanent injury and vaguely describe your pains and aches and limitation of motion. It would mean much more if you had a written report from your physician setting forth exactly what permanency you have. Talk to your doctor. Most physicians will gladly cooperate and will give you a written report on request.

In determining the value of permanent injuries, you may consider your life expectancy. If so, consult the mortality table listed later in this blog. Permanent injuries are serious, a subject of concern to insurance companies, and greatly increase the value of your claim.

The discretion of a jury in fixing damages in a death case is “as wide as all outdoors.” Bear in mind that the approach of the insurance company is to consider what a jury would do if the case were not settled. There are a host of factors that a jury might consider.

You cannot collect for your sorrow. Tears have no value. In most states claims must be based on economic loss.

The word “pecuniary” is the key to death claims. The average dictionary doesn’t give a complete definition of the word “pecuniary” as used in the death statutes. This word has been defined by the courts as “monetary” or “that which can be measured in money.”

The word “pecuniary” definitely excludes consideration for sentimental loss, mental anguish, sorrow, loss of companionship, comfort and society of the decedent. Where the measure of damages is the pecuniary value of the decedent’s life, the claim is limited to the dollars and cents loss— the economic loss sustained.

In a few states, recovery in death cases is not limited to “pecuniary” loss. Alabama allows punitive damages (smart money). Kansas, South Dakota and Tennessee allow damages for mental anguish, loss of society, etc. Wisconsin allows a surviving spouse or parent up to $2,500 for loss of companionship.

Funeral and medical expense. In most states the claimant can recover for funeral and medical expense.
Life expectancy. The age of the decedent is an important item in determining the value of death claims. What was the decedent’s life expectancy?

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