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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settlements: Averages and Outliers

The sudden loss of a loved one is devastating. It's difficult to quantify a loss like this in monetary terms. But a specific area of the law allows compensation to the surviving family of someone wrongfully or negligently killed. This award represents the "value" of that person's life and their contributions to the family. Many factors go into the calculation of settlements of these sorts of lawsuits.

This article will discuss more about the average wrongful death settlement.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

State wrongful death statutes allow a decedent's surviving family members or representatives to file a lawsuit on their behalf. In a wrongful death case, a person has died as the result of a negligent or wrongful act, including:

  • Intentional homicide
  • Accident
  • Injury
  • Medical malpractice
  • Negligence of another person
  • Product liability

It is not uncommon for the families of homicide victims to bring wrongful death lawsuits in civil court. These are independent from criminal justice proceedings. It's difficult and somewhat uncomfortable to give economic value to a lost loved one. But, many surviving spouses and family members are financially vulnerable after an unexpected death. Many find themselves solely responsible for funeral costs, medical bills, and the burden of providing financial support to children and dependents without a partner. For this reason, some choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking monetary recovery.

Amount of Recovery in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

It's challenging to put a dollar value on a human life. The amount of recovery for a wrongful death lawsuit involves balancing many factors. The amount varies depending on the circumstances of the case. You can use a wrongful death settlement calculator to estimate how much compensation you could receive. The online tool considers specific factors related to a wrongful death settlement.

Relevant factors include the victim's age and health at the time of death. Another critical factor is earning capacity, especially if the victim supported a spouse or young children. The settlement amount will also depend on the nature of the accident or injury that caused the death and if the victim had significant medical bills or endured suffering before death.

Plaintiffs in a wrongful death suit can seek recovery economic damages, including things like:

  • The decedent's lost wages or income
  • Funeral expenses, cremation, and burial expenses
  • Medical bills/medical expenses before death

Some types of damages are not as closely tied to economic losses and, as a result, can be more speculative. State laws may also cap the amount of potential recovery for these "non-economic" damages, such as a loss of household services. Other wrongful death damages include:

  • The family's loss of companionship, care, and comfort
  • In the case of a spouse or partner, the loss of enjoyment of sexual intimacy, also known as "loss of consortium"
  • The decedent's pain and suffering before death

Recovery in Wrongful Death Settlements

Like a personal injury case, the plaintiff in a wrongful death action can recover compensation from the at-fault party either out of court, through a settlement, or the court by a trial. For example, you can go to court if you don't accept the settlement offer. If you go to trial, you may get an award in your favor. But, there is no guarantee like there is in a settlement.

Typically, a wrongful death attorney can help with the various stages of a settlement. Many personal injury lawyers do offer an initial free case review. With the case evaluation, the attorney can gather evidence to bolster your claim. Then, they can help you discover your expected recovery.

States have a statute of limitations, meaning you have limited time to file your claim. Most states set this limit at two years, but it may range from one to six years. Your attorney can help you file your case in time.

How Wrongful Death Settlements Pay Out

Suppose you are in a truck accident. The truck driver has an insurance policy to drive the vehicle. The responsible party's insurance company makes the settlement payout. But, insurance companies do not have an infinite money supply. They have policy limits on the payment amount. The insurance company will not pay more than the policy amount. The at-fault party, such as the truck driver, must pay for any amount the insurance doesn't cover.

Examples of Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death settlement amounts vary from case to case. In recent years, some newsworthy wrongful death settlements and jury awards reflect how much these cases can be worth. Some notable examples include:

  • The parents of 12-year-old Mallory Grossman reached a $9.1 million settlement against the school district after Mallory died by suicide following months of bullying.
  • The Alabama Supreme Court approved a $10 million award against Springhill Medical Center to the family of a man who died after successful surgery on his thumb.
  • The family of Jordon Edwards won $10.6 million in compensatory damages and $11 million in punitive damages against a former Texas police officer who shot and killed the 15-year-old after firing into the vehicle in which Edwards was a passenger.
  • Nineteen-year-old Mallory Beach's family reached a $15 million settlement with the South Carolina convenience store that sold alcohol to the underage boat operator who ultimately cashed, killing Mallory in 2019.

Learn More About Wrongful Death Settlements from an Attorney

If you've lost someone you love due to an accident, injury, or crime, you may have a strong wrongful death claim against the at-fault party. Like other types of personal injury claims, wrongful death cases have statutes of limitation specific to your state, so it's essential to act quickly if you believe you have a case. A wrongful death lawyer can provide sound legal advice.

Speak to a personal injury attorney to learn about your legal rights with wrongful death lawsuits. An experienced attorney can also help explain the ins and outs of wrongful death settlements.

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