Future Conditions & The Value Of Your Claim
If a person is severely injured, the physical harm can last for many years, if not the rest of their life. They may suffer from paraplegia, quadriplegia, broken bones, or missing limbs. Because these injuries can last a lifetime, changing the victim’s life forever, future conditions are often a key part of the claim valuation process.
The way a person is affected by an injury depends on the accident itself. For example, an auto accident will have a different effect than a chemical plant explosion. Additionally, the effect that the accident has on a person’s life expectancy will play a role in the valuation of their claim.
All of these factors are considered when developing a “Damage Model.” Similar analysis of the detrimental impacts of the loss of a loved one on the lives of the surviving family members form the basis of damage awards in cases brought for wrongful death.
For example, when determining the “damage model” for a child killed in a wrongful death suit, the court will consider factors including loss of consortium from having the child in the lives of the surviving family members. Other factors that can contribute to damages for loss of a child include loss of the parent’s economic investment in rearing the child to that point and loss of future earnings the child could have contributed to the family once they had reached adulthood. The latter being more speculative and as such more difficult to recover, particularly if the child is younger. If multiple children passed due to an accident, any damage award would be increased accordingly.
When a child’s parent dies, that child is left with their own “damage model” that considers what their parent could have provided for them financially – up to the point that they reached adulthood. If the child is already 19, it may not be a long time before they are independent. However, if the child is younger, then this period of time can be much longer and hence encompass more damages. In addition to economic damages for loss of financial support, a child can be awarded damages for loss of consortium, or companionship, guidance, and emotional support of their deceased parent.
Similarly, a surviving spouse would be entitled to their own award of damages along similar economic and non-economic lines of reasoning on detriments incurred by loss of the deceased from their lives.
Depending on the circumstances leading up to the death of a loved one, surviving family members may also be entitled to additional damages over and above evidenced and accepted economic and non-economic damages. These additional damages are known as exemplary or punitive damages given that they are intended to effectively punish a wrongdoer for particular acts. Generally, exemplary or punitive damages may be awarded where acts of fraud, malice, or gross negligence caused the death or injury for which recovery is sought.
Consider This Example…
One man’s 55-year-old wife had been complaining of headaches and went to the emergency room on a Friday night. The couple didn’t have any children, and the wife was a homemaker. At the hospital, the doctor treated her, said that it looked like she just had a headache, and gave her some aspirin. He told them to come back if the headaches persisted.
By Saturday night, her migraines were so severe she couldn’t function properly. Her husband took her back to the emergency room, where they saw a different physician, but it was too late. By midnight, she had died. The cause of death was a brain aneurysm – a bleeding blood vessel – that went unchecked by the physician and hospital staff.
What’s more, the wife had initially come to the doctor complaining of a sinus headache. Because of this, the physician who had initially treated her used a camera device that inserts up into the sinus cavity through the nasal passage. During the examination, he had inadvertently punctured the membrane separating the brain from the nasal cavity just enough that there was leakage. This accident is what caused her headache to explode into the pain that she experienced on Saturday.
When they performed an autopsy on her, they discovered that a rupture of the membrane was what had caused her death. Her husband sued the hospital, but the damage model wasn’t significant.
The undeniably tragic and needless circumstances of the wife’s death notwithstanding, the ensuing economic damages were not significant because she had only been to the ER twice – and only spent a few hours there each time. Further, future economic damages stemming from her death were not significant given that she did not work outside the home. The surviving husband could bring a claim for loss of consortium, but he will be awarded significantly less for such non-economic damages as compared to a situation where the couple had children.
Conversely, when a worker is killed in a chemical plant accident and he had five children, then the surviving spouse, and each child have a separate damage model for their wrongful death claims. Generally, how much support the deceased spouse would have provided to the spouse for the remainder of his working life and his children from the date of death to the date of adulthood are the most determinative factors for an award of economic damages. Again, the surviving spouse and each surviving child would be entitled to an award for non-economic loss of consortium damages.
Caps For Punitive Damages in Texas Medical Malpractice Suits
The death of a loved one is always difficult, but when it is the result of someone else’s negligence, it can be especially devastating. If you have lost a spouse due to medical malpractice, you may be wondering what kind of compensation you are entitled to. Unfortunately, in many states, including Texas, there are damage caps that limit the amount of non-economic damages a plaintiff can recover.
In 2003, Texas put a limit or cap on punitive damages for medical malpractice cases. The new law stated that the maximum amount of punitive damages that could be awarded was $250,000 for non-economic damages.
For more information on Civil Claims Law in Texas, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (713) 714-0073 today.
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