Martin Monahan, a U.S. Army captain stationed at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, was killed in a recreational skydiving accident after he allegedly struck his head against the aircraft body while exiting the plane during a skydive. Federal Aviation Administration officials investigating the crash believe this triggered an automated safety device which forced open Monahan’s parachute, and helped him land in a field. Authorities believe he was knocked unconscious by the blow, and later died from the head trauma injuries. This tragic accident serves as a reminder of the dangers posed by extreme sports such as skydiving.
Recreational accidents and wrongful death actions
According to the U.S. Parachute Association, in 2012, 19 fatal skydiving accidents took place out of approximately 3.1 million jumps across the U.S. In cases where another’s negligence causes a fatal recreational accident, or any other type of accident, the victim’s survivors may be entitled to bring a wrongful death action and receive compensation for the loss of their loved one.
Recoverable damages in a wrongful death action
Under Hawaii state law, survivors bringing a wrongful death action may generally recover economic and/or non-economic damages.
Economic damages: composed of the financial value the victim would have contributed to survivors had he/she not died, including: lost expected earnings, pension or medical benefit plans, and lost inheritance
Non-economic damages: may include compensation for mental anguish or pain and suffering, loss of love, society or companionship of a deceased spouse, or loss of care and nurturing of a deceased relative
The process of calculating recoverable damages is often very complicated, involving the use of expert witnesses, such as actuaries or economists, to give their estimations of the appropriate damages amount based on the victim’s financial contribution to the household, both from traditional earnings earned via employment income as well as the monetary value of care and services provided to the household by the victim prior to his or her death.