All across the country, conversations about racial bias and systemic racism are becoming more frequent and urgent. Virtually all industries are being asked to consider how discriminatory practices and institutionalized racism may be preventing people of color from being treated fairly, achieving upward mobility, or accessing economic opportunities. When it comes to negotiating a personal injury settlement, whether in or out of court, there are several factors that influence the amount of damages the plaintiff is entitled to receive. Let’s take a look at how racial and cultural bias may play a role in the personal injury claims process.
The Problem With “Earning Potential”
In many personal injury cases, the settlement amount is influenced in some way by the injured party’s earning potential. For instance, if the injured individual worked in a highly physical industry and suffered an injury that prevented him from working in this role for months, years, or even permanently, the judge or jury would likely look at how much he could have earned over the course of his life, had the injury not occurred. While earning potential can be a useful tool for negotiating a settlement amount, there are inherent flaws with the structure itself, as white males are much more likely to earn significantly more than women or people of other races and cultural backgrounds. This could mean that a white male would be entitled to a larger personal injury settlement than a man of another race, even if their job description was identical.
Small Steps Forward
In recent years, several states have taken action to limit or eliminate the use of race, ethnicity, or gender-based statistics to calculate financial damages. In November of 2019, California passed a law that prohibits “the estimation, measure, or calculation of past, present, or future damages for lost earning or impaired earning capacity resulting from personal injury or wrongful death from being reduced based on race, ethnicity, or gender.” This law is the first of its kind to be passed, and it further justifies its existence by stating that using such bias perpetuates systemic inequalities that “disproportionately injure women and minority individuals by depriving them of fair compensation.” With the passing of this law, other states are likely to follow suit in the near future.
Striving For a Brighter Future
Suffering a personal injury can be devastating, especially if you are left with costly medical bills, lost wages, or the termination of your employment. It’s essential that you work with an attorney who understands the challenges you are facing so they can work hard to obtain justice on your behalf. No matter who you are or what your circumstances may be, you have the right to pursue compensation from those whose reckless actions led to your injury. You deserve to recover the compensation you need to rebuild your life.
The dedicated legal team at Henderson Taylor Law Firm is dedicated to representing and obtaining justice for personal injury victims, especially those from marginalized or minority groups. Call our Vancouver office at (360) 737-1478 today to get started with a compassionate and trusted personal injury attorney.