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Proving Loss of Income in Wrongful Death Cases


Oklahoma allows family members to recover damages when a loved one dies in an accident due to the fault of others. To recover the highest amount possible, a range of legal skills, professional relationships, due diligence, and persuasive argument are required. Each element of damages should compensate the family fully.

One key damage recovery item is the amount of wages the decedent would have provided family members if the accident had not occurred. Loss of income includes future wages and salary. It also includes future work benefits, such as health insurance, 401Ks, pension plans, and retirement benefits.

Experienced wrongful death lawyers obtain records from the decedent’s employers detailing what income and benefits the decedent was earning at the time of the death. The records requested from the employer should also seek to determine what wage increases and future benefits the decedent would have been entitled to.

The determination of lost income explores the following factors, in addition to the decedent’s current paycheck:

  • The age and health of the decedent
  • The decedent’s life expectancy
  • The employee’s work experience, job skills, and education
  • The decedent’s record of work performance, such as how many promotions he/she has received

Typically, an Oklahoma wrongful death attorney works with an economist, occupational expert, or financial expert to determine the reasonable expectation of future income. Once the long-range benefits are determined, the expert places a current value on those benefits. The current value can vary depending on the projected interest rates that will exist in the future.

Some of the factors that can limit the amount of future income are the decedent’s expected age of retirement and any expenses, such as union dues, that the employee would have needed to pay. The sum the worker would have spent on himself/herself is also usually deducted before figuring the amount of lost income to be awarded.

The right to lost income applies to all workers, including freelance workers, independent contractors, and anyone who is self-employed. Lost income calculations should also be made for anyone who owns or has interest in a business.

In non-employee wrongful death cases, financial professionals review recent tax returns, profit and loss statements, and other records of income.

Other wrongful death damages

Competent attorneys also seek to recover the following on behalf of a family who lost a loved one:

  • The value of the loss of services the decedent would have provided the family
  • The value of the loss of caring, guidance, support, and love the decedent would have given each family member
  • Reimbursement for any medical bills
  • Repayment for funeral expenses
  • Punitive damages in the case of egregious wrongs

The loss of a loved one can never be fully compensated by money.  A monetary award is meant to provide the family some measure of relief and to hold the wrongdoers accountable so they will be deterred from future wrongs. At Stipe Law Firm, our Oklahoma wrongful death lawyers work to get families every dollar the law allows. To have a strong advocate on your side who understands how liability is proved and how to properly prepare a damage claim, please phone us at (918) 505-7741 or make an appointment at our McAlester office through our contact form.