Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “Can I post about my injury on Social Media?”
Though there are more and more conversations these days about the troubling impact race and gender can have on cases in the criminal justice system, the civil justice system is almost never mentioned. It might come as a shock to most people that race and gender would ever factor into something like personal injury cases, but, according to a recent Washington Post article, that’s exactly what happens. A victim’s race and gender can have a huge impact on the size of a personal injury settlement as attorneys and other experts rely on demographic averages to determine future earnings. To learn more about how race and gender can skew personal injury awards, keep reading.
A recently settled personal injury case reveals the problem that can come with relying on race and gender in assessing damages. A boy named “G.M.M.” was injured by lead paint in the rental home his family had been living in. The boy suffered serious mental disability as a result and the parents sued for damages. His lawyers argued that G.M.M. would have earned approximately $3.4 million over his lifetime and that he should be compensated for these lost future earnings. The defendant’s attorney disagreed, saying that despite the boy’s educated parents, the fact that he was Hispanic made it unlikely that he would ever attain an advanced degree or such a high income. Instead, citing the statistic that only 7.37 percent of Hispanics attain a master’s degree, the defendants believed $1.5 million in future earnings was a more appropriate figure.
In another, perhaps even more shocking case, a six-year-old girl and a male fetus were killed in the same terrible car accident. Family members sued on behalf of both, bringing wrongful death claims against the driver responsible for the crash. Despite the fact that the girl was six and had been shown to be advanced for her age and already had a college savings plan, the settlement for the male fetus was 84 percent higher than that of the girl’s, all because of demographic averages which indicate that men will out earn women over the course of a lifetime.
These demographic averages can, in some cases, lead to results that many believe are deeply unfair. For instance, using calculations of future income based on demographic profiles, a black male with a master’s degree is estimated to earn a little over $2.1 million in a lifetime. A white man with only a bachelor’s degree is projected to earn $2.28 million, more than $160,000 more than his black counterpart with the advanced degree. White men with a bachelor’s degree are estimated to earn 65 percent more than white women with similar educational attainment. In these examples, a person’s race or gender is used as a kind of financial punishment, holding them back from what their hard work should have entitled them to.
Though even critics agree the averages are seldom inaccurate, there is a broader concern. By relying on these demographic profiles to award damages in personal injury cases, courts often acknowledge and reinforce past discrimination. Not only does this behavior risk endorsing discrimination, it may actually perpetuate it by pushing the impact of the previous discrimination into the future.
The problem is serious enough that some other countries, including Israel and Canada, have done away with the use of these demographic averages. Instead, the justice system is asked to be race and gender blind, taking into account things like family circumstances and educational attainment. The judge in the lead poisoning case stated his opinion at the end of the case, saying that race and ethnicity should not be a determinant of a person’s achievement. He went on to say that such a system distorts the American Dream and should not be tolerated.
If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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