What is a life worth? Wrongful Death Case Settles for $750,000

It is a heavy question to have to ask, especially if it comes as a result of a tragic death.

Yet it is an important question because the law covers cases where someone dies at the hands of another through neglect, negligence or wrongdoing. The term is wrongful death. It enables related parties to seek damages (money compensation) for the loss of a loved one.

At Lindner Law LLC., we know that no amount of money can bring back a child, parent or spouse, but—paltry as it may seem–it is all the law has to offer.

Our firm brought in an expert firm that specializes in placing a monetary value on lost lives in the interest of obtaining a fair award for the parents of a 12-year-old accident victim. This is the story:

A wrongful death case, recently settled by Lindner Law LLC., Partner Patrick O’Neill, was an extremely sad one.

The accident occurred in July, 2012 when a 22-year-old woman was driving six lively girls to a nearby lake for a canoe trip. She was driving a mini-van and also was towing six canoes. Simply put, she ran a stop sign. Within seconds, the van was hit broadside by a large semi which did not slow down. Both vehicles ended up in a pasture, the van was overturned. Canoes were strewn all over. Two girls, ages 9 and 12, who were in the rear seat, were thrown from the van and killed outright. When police arrived, the van driver admitted that she hadn’t noticed the sign.

Police reports indicate that the van driver was not drunk, drugged or using her cell phone. All the girls in the van, all pre-teens, had secured their seat belts before they took off. The road conditions were reportedly good, the weather mild and balmy. It was the driver’s 22nd birthday! Yet it happened.

It turned out to be a tragedy in three acts: First, there is the death of the girls; second is the grief and devastation of the girls’ parents, relatives and community; and third, there are the haunting memories the van driver and the other passengers in the van will have for the rest of their lives.

The parents of the deceased 12-year-old hired Lindner Law LLC., Attorney Patrick C. O’Neill to represent them and file a wrongful death claim. For all the sadness and tragedy surrounding the event, the attorney’s job was to sort out the details and obtain justice for the family in terms of placing and receiving a value on the loss of their child.

If you have ever wondered how this is possible, there are expert economists who specialize in placing a value on a life. Lindner Law LLC., determined it needed to engage such an expert. In this case, O’Neill sought the services of a Chicago firm that specializes in evaluating those aspects of a life that are covered in the law. The firm assembles charts, tables, projections, research, court cases and presents a report that puts a dollar value—a range of values–on a life.

For example, the firm assumed that the 12-year-old would have lived a normal life expectancy to 69.3 years. Since she was an excellent student, they assumed she would have attended college and earned at least a bachelor’s degree. They applied average salaries to the equation. They used averages and tables and estimated other losses the family suffered in terms of services the family would have to replace or do without. And, there was even a number put to other losses of expected interactions in a family. While it seems extremely complex, it is a recognized way to make sense of what seems impossible: to value, to put a number on a human life. Armed with the economic research and touching writings and photos from the family, O’Neill made his case to a mediator.

The mediation that took place awarded the girl’s family nearly three-quarters of a million dollars. While it is a large settlement, O’Neill says it still was a very hard case for him. He knows it is even harder for the girl’s family. While money doesn’t bring her back, it might help them over rough times while they try to recover some equilibrium and learn how to live without her.

Click here to download a free ebook: A Time of Great Loss When You Lose A Loved One: The Law as it Applies to Wrongful Death