Reliable and valid estimation of the additional years a deceased individual would have reasonably been expected to live is critical for determining non-economic (e.g. loss of consortium, loss of life and loss of ability to enjoy life) and economic (e.g. lost earnings, medical and funeral costs) damages.
Similarly, such an estimation is crucial for individuals seeking economic and non-economic damages following a debilitating injury. For those requiring a life plan, an underestimation of remaining years of life can have disasterous consequences.
To determine such an estimate experts rely in part upon sex, race and tobacco-use specific birth cohort life tables. Data from thousands of insured lives allow us to further refine these estimates taking into account medical conditions such as coronary artery disease, obesity and diabetes.
However, it is also clear from epidemilogical studies that medical care can greatly ameliorate these conditions with interventions -for example, medication, coronary artery stents and good glucose control and such efforts must be taken into account. A physician's input can be important to assess the degree to which a pathological process can impact upon life expectancy.
Finally there are also good "risk" factors that add years to a person's estimated life expectancy including regular exercise and familial longevity. The inclusion of these additional years to an estimated life expectancy can dramatically and postitively impact a jury's or judge's award.