Trials & Litigation

Should race and gender be used in calculating lost income? It's a common practice

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Gavel and money.

Some law professors are calling for a re-examination of using race and gender to calculate future lost income in court cases.

Because of the practice, white and male victims often receive larger awards than people of color and women, the Washington Post reports. Its story is based on interviews with more than two dozen lawyers and forensic economists who make the projections.

For a black female under age 25 who is injured and unable to work, future lost income is calculated at $1.24 million in one model. Lost income for a white male in the same situation is projected at $2.28 million.

The story cites a 2009 survey by the National Association of Forensic Economics in which 44 percent of the respondents said they considered race and 92 percent said they considered gender when projecting lost wages for an injured child.

University of Maine law professor Jennifer Wriggins is among those calling for change. The practice, she tells the Washington Post, “reinforces past discrimination and pushes it out into the future and endorses it.”

Differing values came in for criticism in the case of a compensation fund created for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. When first announced, the award formulas relied on race and gender. That changed after public comments condemned the idea. The new tables relied on calculations for males without regard to race.

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