Caps on non-economic damages make it impossible to receive true fair value in death claims in Maryland (and in most states). Accordingly, personal injury lawyers need to turn over every stone to maximize the economic damages in wrongful death cases. The future lost wages claim is obvious. But often overlooked, even by the best attorneys – at least until they get the case to an economist – is the decedent’s employer-funded benefits and household services.
Employer Unfunded Benefits
The problem is, in many fatal cases an economist is not used because the plaintiffs’ lawyer thinks he does not need one, or because the case settles long before an economist is engaged. As a result, employee-funded benefits are not always included in the calculus.
Fifteen years ago, if you left out these benefits, the overall value of your case suffered a little. In 2014, with health insurance and other employee benefits skyrocketing, if you don’t include these in your damages in a wrongful death case, you are leaving as much as 25% of the value of the claim on the table.
Wrongful death beneficiaries should be able to collect the present value of all employer-funded pension benefits and health/dental/eye care insurance which are lost to the family as the result of the death. How do you prove these damages? You can’t exactly bring in an expert in each area to provide testimony on the market value of these benefits. Courts will generally allow an economist to estimate the cost of these benefits. I think most judges would also allow the employer to estimate these costs.
You can’t get every employee benefit included as damages. You cannot collect on the decedents’ lost disability insurance while making a claim for lost earnings. And you can’t include employer-paid vacations and holidays. But most of these lost benefits should be included in a fatality case from the demand package to submission to the jury.
The purpose of the wrongful death statute is to put the survivors in the same economic position they would have been if the death had not occurred. So besides future lost wages and benefits, victims can get compensation for voluntary or obligatory services to the wrongful death beneficiaries. An economist values these services if they were purchased on the open market. This can be complicated because the work that the decedent did might require the hiring of some different types of workers, all with different fair market values for their labor. For example, the decedent might bring his wife tea every night but might also perform complicated repairs and maintenance to her boat or prepare food with the quality of a gourmet chef. Economists used wage data in the relevant occupational categories to compute these losses.
Getting a Lawyer for Your Case
If you have a wrongful death case in Maryland, contact my law firm. We have achieved a successful outcome in scores of wrongful death cases in Maryland, both at trial and at the settlement table. You can call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation here.