How to Calculate the Value of A Wrongful Death Claim
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If you have lost a loved one in a wrongful death accident, then you know just how painful and confusing of an experience it can be. You also understand that no amount of money could ever completely make up for the loss of that family member. However, funeral and burial expenses can pile up quickly, and the loss of a family member may also mean a loss of income. In these cases, there may be compensation available, and an experienced wrongful death attorney may be able to help with how to calculate the wrongful death damages you may be entitled to seek.
HOW TO CALCULATE THE VALUE OF YOUR WRONGFUL DEATH CASE
After the initial shock has worn off, family members of wrongful death accident victims may begin to wonder how much compensation they may be entitled to. This question is difficult to answer generally, because many factors may end up impacting the ultimate value of your claim. On top of the immediate expenses that a family may have to incur, such as medical bills and funeral costs, there may also be long-term damages that are a bit more difficult to calculate, such as lost income and the emotional impact that a wrongful death can have. Speaking with an attorney may be the best way to fully understand the factors that go into determining the value of a wrongful death case.
HOW IS CASE VALUE DETERMINED?
Your attorney may be able to get into the details of the value of your case, but there are some general categories of damages that may give you an idea of what your case could be worth.
Economic damages are objective and can usually be easily quantified. They include costs like funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, and property damage that may have happened during the accident. Economic damages can also be forward-looking, such as wages and benefits that the deceased is no longer able to earn. Economic damages will typically be proven with bills, receipts, paystubs, or in some cases, expert testimony.
Non-economic damages are less concrete than economic damages, and if a case were to go to trial, they would be subjectively evaluated by the members of the jury. Generally, non-economic damages refer to the pain and suffering experienced by an accident victim. In a wrongful death case, non-economic damages may include the surviving family members’ loss of love, companionship, guidance, protection, or consortium resulting from the death of their loved one.
Determining the value of a wrongful death claim can be more complicated and speculative than a typical personal injury case because it involves making projections of what the deceased may have done in the future had it not been for the accident. This means that a couple of important factors when determining the value of a wrongful death case are the age of the individual when they passed and their life expectancy. If the individual was very long and likely had a long life ahead of them, then your family may stand to receive more compensation.
Other factors, such as earning capacity, can also play a role in determining the potential value of a case. For example, a doctor who was earning a very high income may potentially have a higher earning capacity than someone who was working in a lower-paying job. An attorney may help provide a clearer estimate of the value of your wrongful death lawsuit.
WHAT COULD REDUCE A WRONGFUL DEATH SETTLEMENT?
While the factors discussed above may end up increasing the overall value of a case, some factors could end up reducing the value of a wrongful death case.
Mistakes in Negotiation
Even in a case where there may not be much animosity between the parties, it is important to remember that you are the only person who truly has your best interests at heart. The other parties’ goal is to pay you as little as they are legally obligated to. This means that it is critical that you attempt to avoid mistakes that could damage your case.
Even cases that seem fairly open-and-shut need to be handled delicately. Making a harmful statement to an insurance company or missing a deadline can reduce the amount of your settlement, or even destroy your claim completely. Having an experienced wrongful death attorney by your side to help to mitigate those mistakes could make or break your claim.
In personal injury and wrongful death cases, one critical component is establishing the liability of another party. The general rule is that the party whose negligent or purposeful act caused the injuries or death of another is legally obligated to pay damages. However, reality is rarely this cut-and-dry. In many situations, multiple parties share in the fault for an accident. For example, imagine a car accident where one driver who is driving under the influence of alcohol collides with another driver who was running a red light. Because both drivers were behaving negligently, the victim will likely have their overall compensation reduced accordingly. Each state handles shared fault differently, so an experienced attorney near you may help you understand the consequences if multiple parties contributed to causing the accident.
Lack of Documentation
Claims need to be backed up by evidence. If there is no documentation of the damages that you are alleging, then this could pose a problem in seeking compensation. When filing a wrongful death claim, it is always better to have too much information available than too little. An attorney may be able to help you in determining what information is important to have and how to go about gathering it.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING WRONGFUL DEATH CASES
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death seems to be a relatively simple, self-explanatory term, and in some ways it is. The term “wrongful death” refers to a civil legal claim where surviving family members seek to recover damages for the wrongful death of their relative. A wrongful death must have been caused by a negligent or purposeful act of another. Not all deaths, however, fall into this category.
For example, deaths that result by accident in cases where one party was not acting negligently or intentionally do not fall into this category. Establishing negligence involves proving that the alleged wrongdoer had a duty to act according to a certain standard and that the death resulted from their failure to do so. If any of these elements is not met, then there is no wrongful death. For example, if a death results from a car accident where the alleged wrongdoer was driving carefully while paying attention to all of the applicable laws, then a wrongful death claim is unlikely to be successful.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In the past, no one could file a civil lawsuit based on the death of another. Though people could be jailed or face other criminal consequences for a wrongful death, any civil remedy died along with the deceased. Fortunately, this is no longer the case today. Determining exactly who is eligible to file a wrongful death case will require a look at the laws of the particular state in which you wish to file. Some of the parties who typically will be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- The executor or personal representative of the decedent’s estate
- Immediate family members, like spouses and children
- Distant family members, like siblings or grandparents
- Domestic or life partners
- Financial dependents and those who may have been financially harmed by the passing of the deceased
Determining if you are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit is a critical first step. The best way to determine the answer to this important question is likely going to be speaking with a wrongful death attorney in your area.
Do I Need a Wrongful Death Attorney?
Wrongful death cases involve a lot of moving parts and depend heavily on the laws of the state in which you are located. Because these cases can be so complicated, there are a lot of areas in which mistakes can be made. Unfortunately, the other parties in your case may take advantage of your mistakes to pay you less than they otherwise might have had to. The best way to prevent making mistakes and maximize your chances of receiving compensation is to hire a wrongful death attorney with experience in your state’s wrongful death laws.
OUR WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEYS MAY HELP
The family members of a wrongful death accident victim have enough to deal with already. In addition to grieving the loss of their loved one, wrongful death cases can be complicated legal battles. The attorneys at Zinda Law Group may help you and your family through this complicated time. Our experienced lawyers may help you calculate the wrongful death damages your family may be entitled to and then fight for your right to compensation. We believe that accident victims shouldn’t have to worry about their ability to afford legal representation, which is why we work on a contingency fee basis. You won’t pay us anything until we win your case.
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