Depending on the circumstances of and damages resulting from a wrongful death, victims may be able to recover large settlements in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. Knowing more about how these cases work and the elements of the law they involve can help determine exactly how much a wrongful death lawsuit is worth.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Before considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you might wonder who is entitled to wrongful death benefits.
If a loved one dies as the result of another party’s negligence or malicious intent, the victim’s family may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party. Specifically, immediate family members may be able to recover compensation through a suit, which could include the spouses, children, partners, or parents of the deceased. If these family members are unable to file a suit on the victim’s behalf, other dependents may also file.
How Much Can You Expect to Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If you’re asking how much a wrongful death lawsuit is worth, keep in mind that every lawsuit differs in the total settlement amount due to numerous contributing factors. There isn’t a universal average settlement in these cases, and they can range anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the circumstances and the specific damages involved. A wrongful death settlement calculator may help give you a rough estimated settlement, but many factors will influence the total amount.
Knowing more about the different elements of a wrongful death case and what to expect during the legal process will help you more accurately determine how much a case is worth.
Types of Damages for a Wrongful Death Case
The loved ones of wrongful death victims may recover a wrongful death lawsuit settlement consisting of compensation for a range of damages.
Specific damages in wrongful death cases could include economic, non-economic, and, in rare instances, punitive damages. Knowing how each of these types of compensation work will help you incorporate them into a wrongful death lawsuit settlement.
The first type of damage to consider is economic, which refers to the various financial losses resulting from a loved one’s death.
Examples of economic damages in wrongful death cases include:
- Medical expenses for treatment leading up to the victim’s death
- Loss of income
- Loss of future earnings
- Costs pertaining to the victim’s death, including funeral and burial expenses
In addition to economic damages, victims’ loved ones may recover non-economic damages. These account for the experience of the victim and loved ones following an accident and death.
Non-economic damages in wrongful death lawsuits may include the pain and suffering the victim and loved ones experience, along with loved ones’ psychological anguish and trauma resulting from the wrongful death.
If the wrongful death resulted from gross negligence or maliciousness on the part of liable parties, the court may award punitive damages to make an example of the defendant. Unlike compensatory economic and non-economic damages, the court will award these specifically to punish defendants and prevent similar behavior in the future.
Factors That Can Affect the Value of a Wrongful Death Settlement
When calculating the total amount of a wrongful death settlement, multiple factors will influence the calculation. These factors include:
The Damages Sustained
One of the biggest factors that influence wrongful death settlements is the total amount and types of damages that result from an accident. Some fatal accidents result in more damages that may warrant larger settlements.
For example, the death of someone who’s built a family and a career with a spouse and multiple children will likely cause greater hardship for loved ones than someone who doesn’t have a family and is unemployed at the time of death. The individual with a career and family would leave dependents to suffer from lost income, services, and emotional support, warranting a larger amount of compensation. Individual family members may also be able to file separate wrongful death claims based on their relationship with the victim.
The Insurance Policy Limits Available to Cover the Claim
Another factor that will influence a wrongful death lawsuit settlement is the amount of insurance coverage that the defendant has to cover the damages. Often, plaintiffs in these cases seek compensation that doesn’t exceed the limit of the defendant’s insurance policy.
Even if a case is actually worth significantly more than the defendant’s policy limit, a plaintiff may be forced to seek the amount on the policy. For example, you might have a case that’s worth $250,000, but the defendant’s policy limit covers $100,000. In this instance, you may be able to take the case to court to recover the remaining $150,000 from the defendant, but it’s less likely you’ll be able to recover the full amount if the defendant is unable to pay it using his or her own assets.
The Degree of Liability
The degree to which the defendant is liable in a wrongful death will also influence the final settlement amount. In some cases, defendants may be solely liable for an accident and a wrongful death, requiring them to cover the entire settlement alone. In other cases, the victims or other parties may share fault.
For example, when a hit-and-run becomes wrongful death to a pedestrian, the liable driver would likely be the only responsible party, making it easy to determine liability and pin it on one party. However, in an accident involving multiple drivers, one of which is the victim, and all drivers are partially liable, the case could get more challenging.
Plaintiffs in these cases must be able to prove fault, whether one or multiple parties are liable. If you can effectively prove liability, this will increase your chances of successfully reaching a favorable settlement.
The Jury’s Perception in a Trial Setting
If a wrongful death lawsuit goes to trial and involves a jury, the jury will play a big role in determining the results of the case. In a trial, both parties would need to persuade the jury that their argument is correct. The jury may then make a decision based on the witnesses’ credibility, the types and impact of evidence in the case, and the sympathy that the jury feels toward either the plaintiff or defendant in the case.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Case?
One final factor to consider if you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit is the time limit you have to file. Every state has a specific statute of limitations in place for each type of lawsuit, including wrongful death cases. These limitations give you a certain amount of time to file a claim or lawsuit before you’re unable to seek compensation.
The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases varies from state to state, depending on the legislature in place. For example, in Nevada, the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is two years from the time of the victim’s death or discovery of the person’s death.
If you don’t file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations passes, you may be entirely unable to file a wrongful death suit. However, exceptions to this statute may apply under certain circumstances. For instance, you may receive an extension on the statute if the case involves medical malpractice, a government entity, or a murder or homicide. An attorney may help you determine if you qualify for an extension based on the specific details of your case.
Calculating the Total Settlement Amount for Wrongful Death
Wrongful death cases are often complex and involve many factors that can affect the final amount of compensation that victims’ loved ones may recover. As a result, it can take a lot of time and energy to calculate the settlement amount.
If you need some help with calculating the total settlement amount in a wrongful death case in or near Las Vegas, you may benefit from consulting with a Las Vegas wrongful death lawyer. An attorney can discuss a potential case in a free consultation and review the facts involved. He or she may then decide to represent you and help you calculate the total amount of compensation you’re able to recover. The attorney may proceed to file a claim or lawsuit to begin the legal process.
Ultimately, calculating the total settlement amount in a wrongful death case can get complicated. When determining the value of a case, you’ll need to consider the damages, liability, jury appeal, and other factors that can directly affect the final settlement. With this total in mind, you may begin building a successful wrongful death case against liable parties responsible for the victim’s death and subsequent damages.