When a driver is negligent, that driver puts everyone around them in danger. This includes children playing on a sidewalk near the roadway, an elderly passenger in another car and even the fetus growing inside another driver.

In an instant a car accident can take a young life, an old one or anything in between. This fatal motor vehicle accident can leave a family devastated and searching for answers. A wrongful death suit can often help families understand why an accident occurred and help them avoid a financial disaster.

However, Washington families should understand that sometimes the age of the victim can affect the outcome of a wrongful death suit. In a wrongful death suit, the family of a fatal accident victim may be entitled to compensation for the damages caused by the accident. This usually requires a calculation of the earning potential of the victim.

It is difficult to calculate the future earning potential of a young child, and that difficulty can lower the damages awarded in these types of cases. Juries cannot guess but must arrive at a reasonable estimate, often with the help of expert testimony, of what the child would have earned had the accident not occurred. The jury may also estimate how much the child would have contributed to supporting his or her parents. Under Washington law, parents of a minor child can also claim damages for loss of the child’s love and companionship, as well as the loss of the parent-child relationship.

Similarly, the earning potential of older victims — especially those who have reached retirement — is typically low. Since they have few or no working years left they don’t have much earning potential. Furthermore, they don’t often have dependents that need emotional or financial support.

The information in this post is general in nature, and the individual outcome of a specific case can be different. After the loss of a loved one caused by the negligence of another, families need to understand their legal rights. In these cases, an attorney may be helpful.

Source: Findlaw, “Wrongful Death Cases: Children and the Elderly,” accessed July 20, 2015