Wrongful Death and Survival Actions Pleading, Proving and Valuing
In a wrongful death action the plaintiff must prove the life expectancy of the decedent, the future earning power of the decedent, the probable cost of the personal maintenance of the decedent, and the amount that the decedent would have contributed to his beneficiaries, and it is only if these elements are proved that a rational conclusion can be reached as to the pecuniary loss suffered by the survivors. It is a general rule, equally applicable in wrongful death and survival actions, that the damages need not conform to a standard of mathematical exactness, and it is sufficient if the evidence affords a reasonably fair basis for calculating damages. The law requires only a reasonable quantity of information from which the jury may fairly estimate the amount of damages.
An expert, such as an economist or actuary, may be used to analyze and calculate the overall damages, including past lost earnings from the date of death to the date of trial, reduced by the cost of the decedent’s personal maintenance, future lost earning power from the date of trial for the remainder of the decedent’s normal life expectancy, reduced by the decedent’s personal maintenance, the value of the fringe benefits that the decedent would have received, and the value of the services that decedent would have performed for the benefit of his family.