New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

What is Pecuniary Loss in a Wrongful Death Case

Posted on May 3, 2015 in Legal Terminology, Wrongful Death

Joan Rivers, a popular comedian, recently died after being taken off life support and her family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit. One of the claims made in the lawsuit was pecuniary loss, which is important to understand. Joan’s death has unfortunately raised a great deal of awareness since her daughter brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the endoscopy center which caused or apparently contributed to Joan’s untimely death.

Yes, this is the same daughter who made a fool out of herself and had an emotional breakdown after being rightfully fired from The Celebrity Apprentice.

What is Pecuniary Loss?

Objection Overuled

Pecuniary loss at times can be difficult to prove in the court of law.

In a wrongful death case, one of the things looked at as an element of damages that a family might be able to recover is what was the financial loss to the family due to their loved one’s death? Therefore, pecuniary loss means what was the financial amount that the family has now lost because the person who died is no longer able to provide financial support for the family.

How is it calculated?

Let us look at Joan’s case as an example. Joan was 81 years old when she died, she was a world-renowned entertainer and comedian, and she was actively working in her lifelong career when she passed away. Joan also had career commitments she was driving towards. So what would be the pecuniary loss to her family? The money that she would have earned, had she continued to live, would amount to the pecuniary loss.

The Argument of the Defense

The defense will typically argue in such a case that since the person had significant medical problems, her life or life expectancy was clearly shortened. Based on this, she was not going to live for another twenty years or work for those twenty years, instead she might have been able to work for only the next three to five years.

This would be the typical defense’s argument, and the family would counter it by saying that there are people like Betty White who continue to live a healthy life and work in their old age. Similarly, other actors and comedians are living much beyond 81 years of age and working successfully in their professions.

In the case of Joan Rivers, there were clearly defined earnings and future commitments made by companies pertaining to contracts they signed with Joan. These can be easily shown and documented to the defense. This will show her earnings and the amount her family lost because of the direct result of improper medical care. Her family can therefore include this as part of the claim they bring seeking damages for the harms and losses that the family suffered. There are other types of pecuniary losses as well, but in Joan’s case, this was the main one.

Therefore, if you have lost a family member due to improper medical care or carelessness of a doctor, you could file a wrongful death case to claim damages. One of the elements of these damages is pecuniary loss, which is the financial loss you will be suffering because the departed family member is now unable to provide for the family.

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