ECONOMISTS: VALUING YOUR BIRTH INJURY CLAIM
One expert vital to your birth injury lawsuit is the economist. While the medical experts prove that the defendants violated the standards of care and caused injury, and the life care planner identifies the future needs of the child, the economist puts it all together in one package and tells the jury, simply, what the total economic cost of the defendant’s negligence is.
The economist will evaluate the total value of a child’s wage loss. For birth injury cases like cerebral palsy where it is likely that the child will never work in her lifetime, it is a simple matter to figure the length of time for lost wages. The amount of wages will of course require some assumptions. Many economists provide two separate reports for lost wages—the first assumes a high school diploma, and the second may assume some college education. The economist may factor in the education level of the parents, as well as available jobs (and wages) in the child’s geographic region.
For children with other injuries, like shoulder dystocia, the economist will have to consider what jobs the child is prevented from doing. If a child with shoulder dystocia comes from a blue collar family, an injury depriving him of the functional use of one arm would severely limit employment options.
Present Day Value
The life care planner determines the total cost to care for the child for his or her lifetime. The economist takes the number given to him by the life care planner, adds in the lifetime lost wages, and reduces it to present day value. Present day value is an important tool. It accounts for the fact that a child who has a life care plan requiring (for example) $6 million dollars, does not really need $6 million dollars today. He will need that much money over the course of his life. With a lower lump sum today, properly invested, he will be able to pay for today’s expenses, and grow his money to pay for tomorrow’s expenses.
The defense will certainly hire their own economist, and the trial will be a battle of the experts. Each expert will begin with certain assumptions. Some of these are fact-specific. Typical assumptions for wage loss and medical care include:
- The life expectancy of the child
- The expected retirement age (often estimated at 65)
- The number of years of employment that the child is missing out on
- The lifetime wage loss for the child (typically taking into account the jobs of family members, geographic opportunities, and the likelihood of advanced degrees)
- The cost of income taxes
- Inflation of services and goods
A jury can evaluate these factors and is permitted to make their own assumptions. For example, they may decide that most people work past the age of 65, so the injured plaintiff should get the benefit of the doubt.
Our lawyers frequently work with economists who can properly evaluate the life care planner’s report, and who can easily explain complicated economics to a jury. If you have questions about the value of a birth injury lawsuit, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at 888-452-4912, or send us a message online Contact Us.