Life expectancy is not normally a subject that comes up in everyday conversation. Yet for attorneys, determining the life expectancy of a catastrophically injured person is critical when it comes to structuring a proper settlement that will enable the injured party to carry on with his or her life.

Robert Shavelle, PhD., technical director of the Life Expectancy Project, focuses his research on the life expectancy of persons with developmental disabilities, traumatic injuries and serious medical conditions. He recently gave a talk before the Southern California Association for Healthcare Risk Management (SCAHRM) where he focused on three catastrophic conditions: cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. His research showed that life expectancy in these cases depends on the severity of the injury, especially the level of motor dysfunction.

Another key point brought out during the talk was that life expectancy is often dictated by the amount of the settlement. A settlement that enables a 20 year old with brain damage, for example, to hire a nurse for weekly visits will usually result in a longer life for the young man versus a smaller settlement that doesn’t make possible proper medical supervision.

Life expectancy data is used by structured settlement brokers, life care planners, MSA vendors and annuity companies to put together rate models and structures.

Download Life Expectancy Table
To download Shavelle’s SCAHRM PowerPoint presentation, which includes detailed life expectancy tables and an impressive list of resources, visit this link. (Note: This file is a PowerPoint presentation.)

You can contact him directly at

– Patrick C. Farber