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Racial bias in wrongful death cases

| Oct 28, 2016 | Wrongful Death |

North Carolina residents may be familiar with research indicating that the criminal justice system could be rife with racial bias. However, they may not know that women and minorities can also face significant obstacles when pursuing civil remedies following the death of a loved one. In wrongful death cases, the accident victim’s lifetime earning potential is often taken into consideration when defendants draft settlement offers or juries determine damages. Some experts say that the data these calculations rely on is often heavily biased against people of color and women.

Many of the forensic economists and lawyers who make these decisions have admitted that white accident victims often receive higher settlement offers than black plaintiffs would have. In addition, men are generally offered more than women. In one wrongful death lawsuit filed after two children died in a fatal accident, the insurance company involved offered 84 percent more for the loss of a male fetus than they did for the loss of a 6-year-old girl.

Experts say that the best way to take race and gender bias out of these equations is to compile comprehensive databases of occupations and incomes. They argue that courts across the country could use this information to determine damage awards after making local cost-of-living adjustments. Those advocating for reform in this area also say that a gender-neutral lifetime earnings estimate should be established for use in cases involving the death of an unborn child.

Experienced personal injury attorneys may seek to shield their clients from racial or gender bias during settlement negotiations or court proceedings by performing thorough research. They could study the backgrounds and aspirations of fatal accident victims to ensure that all of their possible future income is being taken into account.

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