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When a loved one dies, the furthest thing from our minds is money. But when the shock and grief wear off, and we realize the death was someone else's fault, we may consider filing a lawsuit. And part of that consideration is looking at whether the cost of filing and litigation is worth it.
While there may be some caps on how much you can be awarded in a wrongful death claim, the amount a lawsuit is worth can vary significantly, depending on the circumstances. Here are a few factors to consider when looking at how much a wrongful death claim could be worth.
The first step to understanding how much a lawsuit is worth is understanding what kind of damages can be claimed -- and awarded -- for a particular lawsuit. There are two types of damages available in wrongful death claims, pecuniary damages and punitive damages.
Pecuniary damages cover financial loss, but may not be limited to the obvious costs arising from a death, like medical and funeral expenses. You may also be compensated for a loss of support and services, such as loss of parental guidance or spousal support. Pecuniary damage calculations can depend on the age, health, work, and other life circumstances of the deceased prior to death, including the financial prospects of the deceased and needs of family left behind.
Punitive damages may be warranted if the death is due to another party's egregious harm or a willful or malicious wrong, and are considered as a form of punishment. Not all states allow punitive damages in wrongful death claims.
Some states have statutory limits on how much a plaintiff can recover in any personal injury case. Known as damages caps, these can also apply to wrongful death claims, and could either limit the total amount you can recover or restrict awards for non-economic injuries only. These laws vary from state to state, and some state courts have struck down that damages cap on wrongful death awards in certain cases.
The best source of information about the value of personal injury cases will be an experienced attorney. If you're considering a wrongful death lawsuit, contact one today.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.