On the surface, the calculation of economic damages in wrongful death cases seem straight forward but upon second glance, the complexity of these cases begins to come into light.  The overall concept behind the calculation of economic damages is fairly simple, however: Damages are typically equal to the present value of the expected future financial contribution the decedent would have made to his or her family but for the defendant’s wrongful act. 
Where the waters begin to muddy is in the consideration of the variety of factors used to calculate the family’s economic loss, ensuring that none of the financial contributions that would have been made by the decedent are missed or double counted. 

Lost Earnings or Earning CapacityOne area that is of particular interest to the valuation expert is the decedent’s earnings history and the ability to extrapolate those earnings over his or her worklife expectancy.  The valuation expert might find themselves in a situation, however, that this information is not available.  Absent such history, the expert may consult studies prepared by government agencies or private sources that show average earnings of various occupations.  Other factors that should be considered when deriving the decedent’s future earnings are education, experience, age, health and inflation. 
One question I’ve heard many people ask is: What is considered future earnings?  In some jurisdictions, plaintiffs are allowed to recover damages of lost earnings capacity.  The appropriateness of this may be based on whether or not there is evidence that the decedent was qualified or if there was an indication that he/she would become qualified for a higher-paying position in the future.
Unfortunately, wrongful death cases not only affect adults but also include minors as well.  The calculation of economic [...]