@MrsWinslow - I've never actually seen the movie you're referring to, but it sounds like something I would like -- maybe I will look for A Civil Action on DVD.
There may be a lot of things wrong with the courts in the US -- almost everything that exists in the world could be improved -- but that a civil action for a disabled breadwinner brings a higher payout than one for a child who has been killed is *not* one of them.
You see, in your average settlement, a big chunk is going to be the economic damages. What has the accident in question *cost* the plaintiff, in dollars and cents? In the case of a breadwinner who has been disabled, that's quite a lot. The family is deprived of his income and in fact will now have to support him and pay his medical bills for possibly decades. (As for men being more than women, etc. -- well, that's a matter of social justice. White men are the highest earners in the country and so would reap the largest economic damages.)
But in the case of a child who has been killed, there might not be economic damages. The child was not an earner yet and the medical bills are not ongoing. So the settlement will still be based on the negligence of the defendant and the family's suffering, but the portion for economic damages will be lower.