A critical component of damages in wrongful death car accident cases is loss of services of the survivors from the victim. Loss of services is a dumb legal expression we would do best to get rid of. Solatium damages is an awful phrase, too. But at least it does not imply in the definition that the loss is pretty much someone doing less for you. (Noneconomic pain and suffering damages is a little better, I guess. We will use that.)
In Maryland, we describe these wrongful death damages to a jury as “mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education where applicable.” Most states use similar strange language but the gist of it is: what has really been lost – calculating everything – from the death of this person?
Here are the statistics nationally on noneconomic pain and suffering jury awards:
The study provided some more interesting data:
Loss of Services Awards to Spouses of Decedents to Age 49
- Award Median: $1,000,000
- Award Average: $1,799,530
Loss of Services Awards to Spouses of Decedents Age 50+
- Award Median: $742,591
- Award Average: $1,790,938
Overall Loss of Services Awards in Death Cases:
- Award Median: $900,000
- Award Average: $2,834,460
I’m not surprised by the gap between victims under 50 and those over 50. It is probably cold and unfair. But jurors do have a clear understanding of life tables and the idea that loss is relative. In Maryland, this is not ultimately a big issue in wrongful death cases because of the cap on non-economic damages.