Computing economic loss in cases of wrongful death.
Although every US state has its own statutes governing wrongful death litigation, the general objectives of the tort system require that tort-feasors make some compensation for the value of life lost. Consequently, the system's success depends heavily on how accurately that value can be calculated. Clearly, some elements that make life valuable cannot be quantified, and survivors can hardly be compensated for their loss. However, settlement negotiations and court awards operate on the assumption that the economic loss resulting from an individual's death can be reasonably calculated. Conceptually, that assumption is justified, but, in practice, there is no accepted standard for calculating economic loss in wrongful death cases. Moreover, many of the existing methods are deficient, and some assumptions held by expert witnesses have been inconsistent with scientific principles of economics. This study develops a methodology to overcome these deficiencies and improve the means for accurately calculating the economic loss associated with the death. This effort is part of a larger study of litigation over aviation deaths. The data files contain information on 88% of the aviation deaths that occurred between 1970 and 1984, involving major US airlines.