Understanding Average Wrongful Death Settlements and How to File a Claim
March 7 2023
The amount of a wrongful death settlement depends on a variety of factors, including the state in which it occurred and the financial losses incurred by the survivors. Generally speaking, settlements for wrongful death cases range from around $100,000 to millions of dollars.
Understanding Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death cases are legal proceedings that seek to hold a person or entity responsible for causing an individual’s death. These cases may arise from any number of causes, from medical malpractice to dangerous products to car accidents. Wrongful death cases must be carefully considered because they can have serious financial implications as well as significant emotional consequences.
When a loved one dies due to negligence or recklessness, the surviving family members often feel violated and want to seek justice. They want the responsible parties held accountable, and they demand compensation for their loss. This compensation may take the form of financial awards, punitive damages, or even criminal punishment. The purpose of wrongful death cases is to help families obtain restitution for the losses they suffered, both financially and emotionally, due to their loved one’s untimely passing.
There is much debate around bringing wrongful death suits. On one side of the argument, some view such suits as a tool of monetary revenge and have argued that suing might not bring closure or peace to grieving families. Others argue that by taking legal action, survivors are sending a message that negligent behavior has consequences and will not be tolerated. Filing a wrongful death suit also can provide a sense of justice for a grieving family and can bring about public policy changes that could prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Understanding wrongful death cases is important for anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness. With this understanding, families can make educated decisions regarding whether filing a lawsuit is right for them. In the next section we will discuss what exactly wrongful death claim compensation includes and how it can benefit surviving family members.
What Does a Wrongful Death Claim Compensation Include?
Wrongful death claims vary greatly by each individual case, but there are generally certain damages that are applicable in most wrongful death claim settlement cases. First and foremost, damages for the deceased’s pain and suffering due to the incident should be included in any settlement or award. Financial or economic losses suffered by any surviving family members as a result of the passing of their loved one must also be addressed. In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded depending on the facts for an additional amount over actual damages suffered.
In addition, emotional distress and mental anguish encountered by grieving family members or spouses should be factored into the reimbursement amount. And lastly, any lost wages, benefits or other earnings on behalf of the deceased must be compensated either through a settlement with the culpable party or through a jury award after litigation.
It is important to thoroughly review all aspects of a wrongful death claim when preparing to settle or litigate your case as many plaintiffs overlook certain kinds of potential recoveries relating to their situation. Parties should consult with legal counsel prior to agreeing to a resolution in order to ensure they received proper compensation for all harms endured.
The next section will discuss funeral and burial expenses which are another important element of bringing a wrongful death case.
Funeral and Burial Expenses
One of the financial losses a surviving family may experience following a wrongful death is the cost of funeral and burial expenses. Funeral director services, cemetery plot costs, and embalming can all factor into the overall price of planning a funeral service. In addition to these costs, families may be responsible for other items such as flowers, printed memorial cards, and transportation of the deceased family member’s body. These expenses can quickly add up to thousands of dollars that surviving family members may not have the means in which to pay out of pocket.
A wrongful death settlement aims to reimburse surviving families for their losses relating to funeral costs, and experts are split when debating what should be included in this settlement amount. Some suggest that traditional burial-related costs should be taken into account, including embalming fees and viewing or visitation costs. Others believe that things like cremation costs or amounts spent on non-traditional ceremonies like spreading ashes at sea should also applied if requested by the survivors.
In most cases, courts will provide an option for families to testify to get the exact dollar amount they paid towards the final arrangements, with no further proof necessary. It’s important that families ensure they detail all of their expenses relating to both funeral home services as well as other desired goods or services that were provided such as transportation or casket rental fees.
Understandably, this financial loss can take its toll on grieving survivors, leaving them feeling burdened beyond repair at an already heartbreaking time. It’s important that survivors carefully consider even the smallest funeral related charges so they’re fully compensated under their wrongful death settlements. With that being said, it’s now time to discuss the loss of care, support and financial contribution that follows a wrongful death claim.
Loss of Care, Support, and Financial Contributions
The death of a loved one can cause the surviving family to suffer financially as well. Spouses, children, and other dependents of the deceased may be deprived of the care, support, and financial contributions that could have been provided. These losses are typically considered when determining average wrongful death settlements.
Family members may experience a variety of losses due to the death of a loved one. The impact is often greatest on spouses and children who were dependent on the income and support of the deceased person. Widowed spouses may be entitled to compensation for loss of services, such as household maintenance, childcare, and meal preparation that the deceased spouse may have provided. In some cases, the inability to take part in day-to-day activities together, such as celebrating holidays or leisurely activities, may be recognized by the court or insurance provider.
Additionally, financial contributions can be taken into account when deciding wrongful death settlements. Loss of an economic contributor can significantly reduce an individual’s income or purchasing power. Loss of benefits associated with Social Security or health insurance coverage are also covered in most wrongful death claims. The court could also consider future lost wages, college tuition savings, retirement funds and more.
While average wrongful death settlements may not make up for the emotional loss endured following a tragedy, they do help survivors cope with financial hardship during times of grief and mourning. It is important for those filing a claim to gather evidence that justifies their request for compensation for lost care and financial contributions by their deceased loved one.
The next section will discuss loss of spousal benefits caused by wrongful death and how they impact settlement awards.
Loss of Spousal Benefits
Upon the death of a spouse due to wrongful death, a family can face significant financial hardship due to the loss of income and other benefits provided by the deceased. Unfortunately, these benefits are difficult to recover through a wrongful death settlement and depend heavily on state law. Examples of spousal benefits that may be lost after a wrongful death include medical insurance coverage, social security payments, pension funds, and other forms of spousal support.
In some cases, survivor’s loss awards may be available if the surviving spouse can prove they had been financially dependent upon their late spouse. This type of award compensates the surviving spouse for not only loss of current economic contributions but also those in the future had their spouse lived. Depending on the state this compensation can include an award for loss of care and services such as maintaining a household or caring for family members.
While these types of awards can be valuable for legally married couples, unmarried partners or common-law spouses may struggle to claim these same benefits due to lack of recognition from certain states or legal jurisdictions. States such as California do not recognize common-law marriages and therefore do not extend spousal rights or benefits in its wrongful death settlements. Unmarried partners must seek legal representation in order to assert their legal rights and receive an equitable portion through any successful wrongful death suit.
In general, awards for spousal benefits must typically be initiated by the resident estate executor/administrator although damages may also be sought outside of probate proceedings in some cases. While collecting damages is never easy it is still worth exploring all available options with a qualified attorney when pursuing a wrong death claim.
The discussion surrounding loss of spousal benefits highlights the complicated nature of seeking compensation after a wrongful death has occurred. The next section will dive into detail about what other factors impact wrongful death settlements and help readers understand how they can receive just compensation after suffering an unjust loss.
Factors That Impact Wrongful Death Settlement
When determining wrongful death settlements, many unpredictable factors come into play. Generally, the key to obtaining a successful settlement is understanding the complexities of these factors, and how they ultimately help shape a fair deal. Every wrongful death claim is unique, as it involves different connections between the victim and any potential survivors.
The severity of the loss inflicted upon survivors often has a tremendous impact on the outcome of their claim. This can include emotional trauma like loss of companionship or even economic repercussions from lost wages, medical bills, and funeral expenses associated with the deceased individual’s passing. By fully understanding who was financially tied to the decedent, courts can assess the appropriate amount for damages related to emotional pain and suffering.
Additionally, claims for wrongful death are highly dependent on evidence and liability being determined – this rests upon proving negligence within a given situation. This means that in order to receive proper compensation for a wrongful death claim, claimants must be able to prove significant evidence such as DUI records, criminal history reports, or other causes directly relating to the deaths of any and all involved parties.
Further complicating proper compensation is the determination of fault – that is if any defendant(s) can be held liable for specific losses and damages related to the wrongful death. Although wrongful death claims typically involve only one defendant, oftentimes there are multiple defendants implicated in such cases. For instance if an intoxicated driver causes an accident in which a passerby happen to be killed; both the driver and the bar that over-served them can be held partially responsible. In such situations valuing a single figure for compensatory damages can prove difficult as each court views these cases differently on individual bases.
Ultimately, it’s essential that claimants have an in-depth understanding of what goes into settling wrongful death claims as each case incorporates numerous details between all involved parties including victims, survivors and potential defendants/liable parties. With this in mind let’s move on to examine relationships between victims and survivors when pursuing a wrongful death claim and how this impacts settlement outcome.
Relationships of the Victim and Survivors
The relationship of the victim and survivors is a critical element in understanding wrongful death settlements. The strength, depth, and duration of the bond between the deceased and the surviving family members can be used as a measure of the financial compensation they will receive. Generally speaking, courts take into consideration the closeness and financial dependency of the deceased spouse, child, or parent to determine how much money will be awarded in a wrongful death settlement.
For instance, if a surviving widow of a wrongful death victim has been financially dependent on her husband for years, she may receive more compensation than someone whose deceased family member had little to no financial support from them. Similarly, in cases where the deceased was a parent to minor children, their dependents may receive an additional mitigation sum since minors typically cannot sustain themselves financially.
Yet these parameters are not limited by gender or age alone. If the deceased partner was particularly close with their adult son or daughter and provided them with emotional as well as financial support – such as paying for tuition fees and rent – then they too may be able to claim larger remunerations than those without such ties. In essence, any damages that were inflicted upon the deceased’s family must be taken into account before considering a wrongful death settlement amount that is to be paid by the defendant.
The strength of familial bonds should thus never be underestimated. Understanding the impact that the wrongful death has had on its relatives is key in acquiring an accurately symmetrical settlement for all parties involved. Moreover, beyond just economic losses – such as expected inheritance or wages – it is also important to include intangible factors such as pain and suffering into said calculations as well.
Having outlined the importance of relationships between victims and survivors in terms of wrongful death settlements, this section now charges ahead towards examining The Role of Insurance in Wrongful Death Settlements in further detail.
The Role of Insurance in Wrongful Death Settlements
When it comes to wrongful death settlements, insurance plays a prominent role in many cases. Insurance can include but is not limited to property and casualty, life, health, and worker’s compensation plans which could be used to cover a variety of damages that may occur due to a wrongful death. There are multiple benefits and drawbacks to relying on an insurance plan to provide financial compensation for victims of wrongful death or their families.
On the benefit side of the argument, insurance can be advantageous because it allows for efficient payment of appropriate funds to the deceased’s family. Furthermore, sometimes insurance companies might provide a higher payout amount than plaintiffs can successfully argue in a court trial. In some instances where liability might be disputed, insurance companies can be helpful by stepping in to pay out reasonable funds while the legal battle over liability is being resolved.
However, having insurance play a role in wrongful death settlements can also lead to drawbacks since not all policies are created equally and coverage limits vary from insurer to insurer. Depending upon the type of policy being used for compensatory payments, claimants might encounter resistance if the policy does not cover an expense associated with their wrongful death loss item. Additionally, depending on language within the policy itself and the overall structure of each individual case, claimants may find that their rights are restricted when dealing with insurance adjusters or providers who attempt to lower the value of their claim.
All in all, there are several pros and cons associated with using insurance for wrongful death settlements. It should be noted that this is often considered part of legal strategy and it is advised that you seek professional legal advice if you feel you may have a claim against an insurer or policy provider so that you can adequately prepare your claim against them. With this understanding in mind, let’s now take a look at how speaking with an attorney may affect potential settlements versus awards granted by juries in a court trial which will be discussed in the next section.
- According to a survey of trial lawyers by the National Law Journal, median jury awards across all types of cases can range anywhere from $200,000 to $3 million.
- According to the Consumer Advocate Network, the typical wrongful death settlement is between $500,000 and $3 million depending on various factors such as negligence or intent to harm.
- A study published in 2017 found that wrongful death settlements were higher when there was evidence of intent to harm or negligence on behalf of the defendant.
Settlements vs. Jury Awards
When a family is looking to seek compensation after the wrongful death of a loved one, they may do so in either a settlement or through a jury award. In either option, economic and non-economic damages will be taken into account. Deciding between the two will require researching pros and cons, as well as understanding the differences and similarities.
The primary difference between settlements and jury awards is how they are decided. A settlement is negotiation between parties that summarize an agreed upon sum of money, while a jury award is determined by a jury of peers from the community or court system who are presented with evidence to come up with an amount for the family of a wrongful death case.
When it comes to similar aspects between a settlement and jury award, both will cover pain and suffering damages, including psychological trauma suffered due to their loved one’s loss. They can also cover hospital bills accrued by the deceased prior to their passing, potential lost wages, punitive damages (if warranted) and final expenses such as funeral costs or burial costs.
In regards to the advantages of a settlement over a jury award, one benefit is that proceedings are placed “behind closed doors” instead of being made public via a trial setting. Along with privacy benefits, this option can also save both parties money on court fees associated with pleadings and transcripts as well as time spent during litigation proceedings that can run long and expensive. This can be very beneficial for those involved since some legal processes could take years before any type of resolution is reached with respect to the case. Additionally, settlements typically have shorter timelines than jury awards since there are no jury selections or trials; therefore, families receive their compensation more swiftly.
On the other hand, some people prefer receiving a jury award versus settling out of court because they feel seeking justice though the legal system is more appropriate given their circumstances. A trial performance must present solid evidence on behalf of the family who experienced loss in relation to obtaining an appropriate award decision. Should negligence by part of another party be found at fault by members of the community sitting in judgement during deliberations, then the family roster may receive an amount larger than what would have been negotiated through an out-of-court agreement (settlement).
Overall, families considering seeking compensation after the wrongful death of a loved one should think carefully when deciding whether to pursue a settlement or jury award as each has its own unique set of pros and cons associated with them. Legal counsel will always provide insight regarding decisions surrounding wringful death cases and can discuss different options available given specific facts related to each individual situation so that financial awards rendered take into account all applicable factors.
Common Questions Explained
Are wrongful death settlements taxable?
No, wrongful death settlements are not taxable. Generally, any money obtained in a wrongful death settlement or verdict is not considered taxable income under the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, as the settlement or verdict amount is meant to compensate for economic losses resulting from the death of a loved one. This includes funeral expenses, medical bills, and lost wages of the deceased that could have been earned in the future. The IRS also excludes damages paid to compensate for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and punitive damages.
What factors influence the amount of a wrongful death settlement?
The amount of a wrongful death settlement is typically based on several factors, such as the severity of the injury, negligence of the defendant, and economic harm to family members. Severity of the injury refers to how severe the injury was and how enduring it was in terms of effect on the victim’s life. Negligence of the defendant refers to their responsibility in causing the wrongful death, such as not taking proper precautions or negligence when handling dangerous materials. Economic harm to family members refers to any financial losses suffered by those affected by the tragedy, such as medical expenses or funeral costs. All these factors are taken into account when determining the settlement amount in a wrongful death case.
How can victims of wrongful death claim a settlement?
Victims of wrongful death can seek compensation for their losses in a settlement. In order to file a claim for a wrongful death settlement, the victim’s next of kin must first establish that someone else was at fault in causing the death. This usually requires providing evidence that someone was negligent or acted recklessly and caused the wrongful death. The evidence must prove that a death occurred as a direct result of these actions and that the victim’s family suffered a financial or emotional loss because of it.
Once the cause of the wrongful death has been established, then the next step is to gather all necessary records related to the case. These include medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages due to time off work, and other related costs. The family may also be able to seek non-economic damages such as pain and suffering owed to them for the loss of their loved one.
The family’s lawyer should be consulted throughout this process so that they can evaluate all possible options related to filing a wrongful death claim. Additionally, lawyers can help with negotiations, arbitration, litigation in court if needed and receiving settlements from any wrongdoers or insurance companies. It is important to keep track of all associated costs during this process as those too may be added in the final settlement used for compensation.