The death of a loved one in a wrongful death accident is not something anyone expects, and if it happens to your family can leave you with many questions about how you can seek justice on their behalf. The law allows for certain family members of a wrongful death victim to file a claim or lawsuit for compensation when the death occurs because of negligence or gross misconduct.
The amount of compensation for a wrongful death settlement can greatly vary from one case to another but is often significant. There is no way to put a value on a person’s life. A wrongful death claim offers the victim’s family an opportunity to get justice for their loved one and to help the family face the challenges of a future without their loved one’s support and companionship.
On average wrongful death settlements can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. Several factors can influence how much a surviving family of a wrongful death victim may get in compensation. Consulting with a wrongful death lawyer as early as possible following a loved one’s wrongful death can give you the best insight into how much money may be available in your case.
Who Can Calculate the Damages in a Wrongful Death Case?
Understanding how you get to the number of losses for a family in a wrongful death matter can be complex. There is a wide range that could apply to each category of damages, and how the damage calculations occur and who is performing the calculations can impact the value given to the claim or case.
A wrongful death insurance claim involves negotiations between the victim’s family, the claimant, and the insurer. In some instances, when negotiations halt or a dispute is not agreed upon between the parties, the case may go to court. Damage calculations can differ greatly depending on who is tabulating those damages and what impacts they consider as part of the claim or case.
The Insurance Company Handling the Wrongful Death Claim
If an insurer accepts liability for a wrongful death claim and does not deny a claim, they will move on in the claims process to calculate damages. Each insurance company has its internal system and software that provides a claims adjuster with the valuation of a case.
These programs, however, notoriously calculate losses to the insurer’s benefit. This often results in the generation of meager offers of settlement.
Additionally, certain insurance companies may overlook some categories of damages and impacts entirely for a wrongful death claim. For example, an insurance company may move fast after an accident, causing a wrongful death and making the family an offer that comes unexpectedly quickly. However, victims’ families should always consult an attorney regarding first offers from insurance companies. These first offers are notoriously low, and you may be eligible for significantly more compensation depending on your case.
Your Lawyer, Hired to Represent You In the Claim
For an attorney to represent you and negotiate on your family’s behalf regarding the loss of your loved one, they must understand your case inside and out. Part of preparing to file a wrongful death claim or a lawsuit is the calculation of wrongful death damages.
Your lawyer will evaluate the laws of the state where the death of your family member occurred and the damages available for wrongful death. They will then work alongside you to account for the extent of the losses your family has and will suffer in the future because of your loved one’s sudden and tragic passing in an accident due to negligence.
A Court Where The Wrongful Death Action Filing Occurs
A court does not always intervene in a wrongful death matter. It is common for many wrongful death cases to resolve without trial. However, when it becomes apparent that a resolution through settlement negotiations may not be possible or the case involves significant compensation, which is unlikely for an insurer to offer as payment for damages, then a lawsuit may become necessary. When working with a lawyer, they will file a civil lawsuit through the court against the insurance company or other at-fault parties as a wrongful death action.
However, remember that filing a lawsuit does not mean a trial will always go forward. It is entirely possible that during the discovery phase of the preparation for a trial, settlement negotiations may improve and a resolution reached.
Suppose the case, on the other hand, continues through the trial. The court will take into account the evidence before them and analyze your claim with the laws of your state to ultimately determine your family’s losses in the wrongful death case.
Funeral and Burial Costs
When a family member dies unexpectedly, particularly when they are young and healthy, a family may not have a plan for the funeral and burial expenses. After death, funeral and burial arrangements can cost more than you can manage when your loved one suddenly dies following a wrongful death accident. As part of the claim for losses in wrongful death, many states allow for the recovery of the family’s funeral and burial costs for their loved one after the fatal accident.
Loss of Income
Losing a loved one’s income can devastate a family unit in the weeks, months, and years following a wrongful death. These losses are particularly devastating in scenarios when a spouse and children rely on the income of their loved one to meet the day-to-day needs and responsibilities of the family, including housing, education, and daily living expenses.
A wrongful death claim often allows family members who lose this contribution from their loved one because of a negligent accident to claim damages for both the current loss of income and future expected income they would have benefited from had their loved one survived.
It may not be something most think about following the sudden death of a loved one following an accident. Still, the medical costs associated with emergency care in the moments following an accident can be high.
Many victims might initially survive an accident, sometimes for hours, days, weeks, or even months. Your loved one may have received medical care that included emergency transportation, intensive care treatment, surgery, hospitalization, or rehabilitation before losing their life.
Although your loved one has lost their life, the medical collectors will still seek payment for these services. This can jeopardize any interests or inheritance that a loved one could have left in the event of their death. Fortunately, many wrongful death cases allow the family or the estate to seek payment of these damages from the insurance company or party at fault.
Pain and Suffering
The personal loss that accompanies the death of a loved one is unfathomable. Each person will grieve and suffer in their way and may deal with a wide range of emotional and mental trauma and distress. Depending on the state where the death occurred, a family may be able to seek compensation for the pain and suffering they will endure because of their loved one’s wrongful death.
Pain and suffering is a complex damage in that it is a significant and personal losses. However, an attorney with experience with wrongful death cases will help guide you through how they and an insurer will calculate these losses in terms of money.
In addition to the pain and suffering of the family members filing a wrongful death claim in some cases, it may also be possible for a claim to include damages to the loved one personally.
When a victim does not lose their life in the instant of the accident or at the accident scene with their continued fight to live, they experience physical, mental, and emotional trauma.
The more time there is between the accident and when your loved one ultimately succumbed to their wrongful death accident injuries, the more significant these impacts. A wrongful death claim or, in some cases, a survival claim allows for loved ones or the wrongful death victim’s estate to pursue these pain and suffering damages on their behalf.
Loss of Contribution
Contribution to a family unit does not only come in terms of financial support. Each day a person may take on many responsibilities, actions, and tasks to help the family move forward and succeed. When the loved one is no longer there to take on these family obligations, it can put immense pressure on other surviving family members and create unexpected challenges as they navigate life without their loved one. In some cases, the law may allow family members to seek compensation for this impactful loss.
Loss of Companionship
Beyond what a loved one did for their family in terms of support, there is the overwhelming personal loss that is the loss of companionship. While there is no amount of money or true value to this loss to you, it is possible in certain cases to pursue damages for this loss from the insurer or at-fault party.
This is difficult damage to discuss and to fight for, but an experienced and compassionate wrongful death accident attorney can help your family determine whether or how to pursue this damage in a claim.
How Can Your Attorney Fight for Compensation After the Death of a Loved One?
A lawyer is your family’s advocate following a wrongful death accident. They will work with you to determine eligibility for a wrongful death claim in your state, as well as help you build your claim and pursue the damages you deserve after the negligent death of a loved one due to another’s a fault.
Wrongful death accident attorneys understand the difficulty these cases present to the family. They can help you manage the aftermath professionally by lifting the burden on your family of having to deal with insurers and other interested parties to the claim. Through the preparation of a claim, negotiations, and communications, a wrongful death accident attorney represents the surviving family’s interests to help your family seek justice as you move forward following this tragic situation.
If you lose a family member to a wrongful death accident, you should contact an attorney for a free case consultation as soon as possible. A free wrongful death case evaluation is a chance for you to speak with a lawyer about the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death and who you can hold responsible or liable to your family for your loss.