A wrongful death case involves someone who died due to another person’s negligence. You could qualify for compensation from anyone who negligently caused the death of a loved one, including medical professionals, careless drivers, and manufacturers.
It is not easy to place a monetary value on someone’s life, and there are a lot of factors that influence a wrongful death claim.
Determining Wrongful Death Settlements
Even the most experienced wrongful death attorney can’t just come up with a ballpark figure for damages. It must be supported by objective evidence to prove negligence.
Expert witnesses will look at the deceased victim’s circumstances and take those into consideration when determining the amount.
- Earning capacity
- State of the deceased victim’s health
- Income at the time of death
- Age and circumstances of deceased victim’s dependants
- Education and training
- Medical bills and other expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Value of lost benefits such as health insurance and retirement
Understanding the Factors That Influence a Wrongful Death Case
When you lose someone due to negligence, nothing makes sense. Much less what is taken into account to decide how much that person’s life was worth.
The damages awarded in a wrongful death case depend on how many claimants are involved and the recoverable damages. For example, an 18-year-old who dropped out of college and didn’t have children is vastly different from a 40-year-old CEO who has three children.
The teenager’s death will likely only involve future earnings, which is nearly impossible to define. However, the CEO’s family can prove a claim for future lost net wages.
You can’t assume a jury is just going to be sympathetic or have empathy for your situation. It is a claim adjuster’s job to weigh potential jury because it affects the responsible party’s value on your claim.
When it comes to personal injury law, juries tend to have more sympathy when they can relate and see themselves in the victim or victim’s family. If a family comes off as dishonest or unlikable, a jury is likely to award less in damages than if a family is genuine and trustworthy.
Jury perception is everything, and if they feel or believe that the family of a deceased victim is trying to get rich quickly, the verdict could be incredibly low, or the jury can even find in favor of the defendant.
Another factor that can change a jury’s perception in wrongful death cases is whether they believe the victim was q ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person. It is up to the defendant’s attorneys to try and place the deceased person in a negative light. A jury finds it easier to award more damages to someone they believe is a good person than someone they think isn’t.
Realistic Damage Amount
It makes no sense to pursue damages beyond the amount that insurance covers or available funds on the defendant’s part. If you seek more than the defendant’s insurance policy limits, you would have to go to court, get a favorable jury verdict, and then collect that amount from the defendant’s personal assets.
In the case of no assets, then the defendant can declare bankruptcy and the judgment becomes entirely worthless. Not only that, you’re left paying attorney fees and collection costs.
Identifying the Wrongdoer
What the victim of wrongful death was doing at the time of the accident plays an important factor in damages. Was it an understandable accident? Did the victim’s actions take part in their own accident?
An attorney with experience in wrongful death cases has the knowledge and understanding to consult you about the strength and weaknesses of your case.
Jurisdiction and Venue
The location of where a wrongful death case occurs makes a difference in the amount of awarded damages for several reasons.
- Juries from rural areas are likely to award more than those in cities and urban areas.
- The sympathy of judges and juries vary between jurisdictions.
- The laws in different states and jurisdictions may make a claim easier or harder to prove.
- Trial courts move at different paces. Some move quickly, and others can take years.
The Importance of an Experienced Attorney
Wrongful death cases are complicated, and it’s hard to think when you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence. A skilled and reputable attorney will guide you through the process and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case. And, the value placed on your claim often reflects the experience of your wrongful death attorney.
You don’t have to navigate a complicated system during your time of grief. Mike Stephenson offers free consultations so that you understand your wrongful death case and will advocate to get you the compensation you deserve. Schedule an appointment today to seek the compensation and justice you deserve.