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This article suggests an exercise that demonstrates to beginning law students the complexity of calculating damages in personal injury litigation. It shows the straight-forward method of calculating the lost future earnings of an injured working adult, and the greater complexity of calculating the lost future earnings of an injured child. It explains how to use life expectancy tables and work-life expectancy tables to calculate lost future income. It shows how to use future value tables to compute the amount of money needed today to replace a flow of income for a set period in the future. It provides examples of how to do these calculations.

The article also examines the different approaches the law uses to address inflation, punitive damages, and funds plaintiffs receive from other sources (the collateral source rule). It illustrates the open-ended nature of placing a value on a plaintiff’s pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.

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