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37 Campbell L. Rev. 497 (2015)
What is a Life Worth in North Carolina: A Look at Wrongful-Death Awards

handle is hein.journals/camplr37 and id is 527 raw text is: 





      What Is a Life Worth in North Carolina?
          A Look at Wrongful-Death Awards

                            RALPH PEEPLES*
                        CATHERINE T. HARRIS

                              ABSTRACT

 This Article examines the amounts recovered in 123 wrongful-death cases
filed in North Carolina over a five-year period. The dataset is unique in
that it includes both jury verdicts and settlements. Although the injury-
death-was the same in each of these cases, the amounts recovered varied
greatly. Several patterns emerge from the data. First, there is a strong
negative correlation between age and the amount recovered. Second, the
manner in which the decedent died seems to make a difference. Violent
deaths, for example, led to larger recoveries than did nonviolent deaths.
Third, jury verdicts produced much larger recoveries than did settlements.
Finally, the results underscore the critical role of insurance in wrongful-
death cases.

                            INTRODUCTION

     What is a life worth, expressed in dollars? To most people, this
 question might seem odd, for several reasons. One might ask why one life
 is worth more than another, or why and how the value of a life is to be
 expressed in dollars. Placing a dollar value on a human life might seem
 distasteful to some, if not repugnant. Even if this objection can be
 overcome, the second question remains: How can the value of a life be
 measured? What method is appropriate? For lawyers, however, these are
 routine and unsurprising questions.   When lawyers deal with these
 questions, they add an indirect phrase to come up with answers: following
 the guidance of wrongful-death statutes, they ask, What is a life worth,
 expressed in dollars, to the deceased's survivors? The effect on the
 survivors is the focus of most wrongful-death statutes and litigation.


     * Ralph Peeples is a Professor of Law at Wake Forest University.
     ** Catherine T. Harris is a Professor of Sociology at Wake Forest University. We
 thank Matthew Barnes for his excellent research assistance. We are grateful to attorney
 Robert M. Elliot for his many helpful comments and suggestions.

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