The Bible, Personal Injury and California Justice

Will Daniels
Will Daniels

Now that my oldest child is out in the working world beyond my protection, I worry even more about what might happen if he suffers a hard life blow such as a serious accident. Also, thinking like I do, I wonder what my remedies are if someone, through carelessness or intent, causes bodily harm to this young man I love.

It’s interesting to me that the Bible has strong rules about personal injury that we as a society really don’t look to as a standard. Take Chapter 21, verse 12 of the Book of Exodus, which proclaims: “Whoever strikes a man a mortal blow must be put to death.” Simple and straightforward, don’t you think? The penalty is fixed no matter if the killing resulted from an accident, some simple negligence or with malice aforethought. Harsh, huh?

book openSo, I got to thinking about how California measures up to that old Biblical standard. Seems there should be some clamor to tighten our standards, seeing as how there is a fair amount of the population who still haven’t forgiven Charles Darwin for drawing conclusions about how evolution works.

Actually, though, as a society, we go completely the other way from the Bible’s strong message about the value of human life.

Oh sure, murder, is still punished criminally, or at least it’s supposed to. On the other hand, our civil justice system often seems value human life at less than the cost of a luxury sedan or a new Ferrari. How can that be?

Take my son, for example. If he is killed on the job as the result of a workplace injury, his life is worth a $5,000 burial expense and that’s pretty much it, since he has no dependents. If a doctor kills him through malpractice, then the cap is $250,000 plus whatever expenses he might have incurred in dying, such as medical bills, etc.

A jury of his peers, on the other hand, might value his life as high as the 9/11 panels did in New York where the families of terror victims were compensated by the government for their loss. Those values always fell in the multi-millions. That was the Bush administration too, not a bunch of wild-eyed liberals. The problem is, as a society, we are letting juries decide these questions less and less, because we don’t trust common people to make decisions about value. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather trust my neighbors to decide how much my son’s life is worth than some single stranger who doesn’t know me, my life or my community. Yet, that is the way we’re drifting, my friends.

At the end of the day, there is no way to equate money with loss of human life. Maybe that’s why the old testament is so rigid in it’s approach.

Still, if we are trying to give justice to families who have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence and the only remedy we have is to award money damages, don’t you think justice demands that the value be fair?

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at or contact us through e-mail: