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How to Calculate the Price of a Life in Massachusetts

How to Calculate the Price of a Life in Massachusetts

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional injury deaths accounted for over 130,000 fatalities in 2013. Losing a family member is a tragedy, and regardless of any compensation you receive, no amount can bring someone back from the grave. Therefore, how does the legal system realistically assign a dollar value to a person’s life?

States vary widely in their interpretation of this value, so let’s take a look at one of the first admitted to union, Massachusetts. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 229 explains that damages in wrongful death suits are calculated using a series of criteria including loss of financial support, expenses directly related to the accident, the victim’s pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.

Calculating future lost income seems straightforward, but it’s not always as easy as having proper documentation and adding numbers. For example, depending on your profession, such as working in sales which relies heavily on commission, future earnings may be difficult to pinpoint or the defense can reasonably argue that estimations are too high. Similarly, expenses related to the incident generally seem clear-cut, but can be disputed. Unlike the first two, pain and suffering damages are much less matter of fact, but can use tangible evidence such as medical records or witness testimony to bolster the claim. The last and most challenging number to find is loss of companionship because it’s impossible to place a price tag on the human experience. Thus, many states impose maximum damage caps as to help juries make these types of decisions. In the state of Massachusetts, this cap is set at $500,000.

Therefore, the value of a human life is essentially set by individual state laws. However, this does not guarantee that juries will award the maximum caps in every instance. With this in mind, it is vital to be represented by an experienced wrongful death lawyer who can fight for fair compensation to secure future funds for you down the road.  Especially in such a high stake situation with the challenge of calculating a concrete number, wrongful death cases are some of the most costly and complex to navigate. Be sure to consult with an attorney and hopefully you will be able to find some closure.

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