A wrongful death action allows family members or personal representatives to demand compensation from someone who caused their loved one’s death. Whether the at-fault party caused the victim’s death intentionally or negligently, this legal recourse seeks to hold them accountable.
Intentional acts include battery and assault. For instance, a caretaker harms a nursing home resident, and the resident dies due to the abuse. The decedent’s family and the at-fault party may enter a wrongful death settlement. It shall cover the financial losses suffered by the family.
On the other hand, negligence arises when the defendant fails to fulfill a legal duty owed to the plaintiff, causing the latter’s death or injury. Negligence cases usually involve car accidents, slip and fall incidents, and dog attacks.
Suppose a speeding driver hits a bicyclist, causing the bicyclist to sustain a brain injury and die. The surviving family members can seek compensation from the negligent driver. However, the settlement amount varies depending on the facts of each case. It is wise to contact a wrongful death lawyer to evaluate what constitutes a fair settlement.
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Factors Considered in Wrongful Death Settlement Calculators
The wrongful death claim a family may receive depends on various factors. These factors include medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages, and future earning potential. It also considers the loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
Medical expenses and funeral costs
The victim’s family may recover compensation for medical expenses incurred due to the accident, such as treatment and surgeries. For example, if a car accident victim sustained spinal cord injuries, they may undergo surgery to repair the spine. The patient may also receive prescribed medications in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Suppose the victim died a few days after the operation. The family may demand reimbursement for hospital bills, surgery, and prescription drug expenses. The amount may depend on the severity of the injuries. For reference, a spinal fusion surgery costs $100,000 or more.
Other factors affecting medical expenses include anesthesia use, healthcare facility, and insurance policy. Major surgeries need more extensive anesthesia compared to simple procedures. Moreover, hospitals offer varying rates. Hence, two patients undergoing the same surgery in different healthcare facilities may incur different costs.
Policy limits may also affect a wrongful death claim. For example, suppose the family demands $200,000 for medical expenses. However, the at-fault party’s insurance only covers $60,000 in healthcare costs. In this scenario, the beneficiaries may only receive $140,000 for medical bills.
The beneficiaries may also receive payment for funeral expenses. On average, funeral services cost $7,848. But if the family chooses to cremate the deceased, it may cost $6,970.
The types of funeral and burial expenses include the following:
- Burial vaults
- Printed materials
Lost wages and future earning potential
Lost wages refer to the income lost since the victim, before their death, missed work due to their injuries. Aside from the deceased’s regular pay, it may include commissions, bonuses, and allowances. If the employer pays the worker per hour, the loss of income is equal to the hourly wage multiplied by the hours of work missed.
Moreover, since the decedent cannot provide monetary support, the beneficiaries may demand compensation for loss of earning capacity. In determining these economic losses, the parties evaluate the decedent’s occupation, educational attainment, and work-life expectancy.
For instance, the family of a cardiologist with an annual salary of $351,827 may receive more than the dependents of a paramedic with a yearly income of $46,303. In addition, the beneficiaries of a 20-year-old woman may receive more than the family of a 50-year-old woman with the same salary.
In a wrongful death suit, the attorney must submit records of past income, such as pay stubs and prior tax returns. They may also present economists who can testify on the financial trends in the decedent’s profession.
Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering include emotional distress, anguish, and grief family members experience after losing a loved one. Your lawyer must present the following to prove pain and suffering:
- Mental health records
- Personal journal entries
- Statements from family and friends
Mental health records show the family members’ psychological history, treatment plans, and therapy session content. They help the court determine the connection between the victim’s death and the family members’ mental health problems. For instance, the record will indicate if the person suffered anxiety and depression due to losing a loved one.
In contrast, the journal entries contain documentation of your daily pain and suffering. They provide firsthand accounts of the emotional toll and can be used to support your claim. Similarly, your family and friends may also testify about your behavioral changes.
The court may use the multiplier or per diem method to compute pain and suffering damages. The multiplier method involves multiplying the monetary damages, such as medical bills, funeral costs, and lost wages, by a number between one to five. The number depends on the degree of suffering.
On the other hand, the per diem method multiplies the daily value of your pain and suffering by the number of days you have endured it.
Loss of companionship
Loss of companionship refers to the deprivation of love, comfort, and support resulting from the death of a spouse. Additionally, the surviving spouse may demand compensation for loss of consortium, which refers to the loss of intimate relations.
In calculating the loss of companionship damages, legal counsels must consider the marital stability of the couple before the accident. They must also evaluate the household contributions of the victim before the incident. The court may use the multiplier or per diem method to know the exact amount the at-fault party must pay the surviving spouse.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the attorney must present the following evidence:
- Copy of marriage certificate
- Personal journal entries
- Couple’s living arrangements
- Couple’s history
The marriage certificate can validate the plaintiff and the deceased’s marriage. The journal entries can show the struggles the surviving spouse experienced due to the incident. The family members can testify about the couple’s living arrangements and history.
By presenting this evidence, the attorney can substantiate your claim for loss of companionship. As a result, you can seek appropriate compensation for your losses.
The court may award punitive damages if it finds the defendant’s actions were particularly harmful. For example, a jury awarded the family of a car accident victim one million in punitive damages. The family of Nick Carusillo filed a wrongful death case against an addiction treatment center that negligently discharged him. Days after his discharge, multiple vehicles hit him on an interstate.
Another wrongful death case also involves a car accident that killed a football player named Devin Willock. Willock’s father filed a lawsuit against Jalen Carter, alleging negligence. He sought ten million in punitive damages.
However, it’s important to know that some states, including Virginia and Georgia, impose a cap on punitive damages. Section 8.01-38.1 of the Code of Virginia states that the punitive damages for any action, including medical malpractice, shall not exceed $350,000. On the other hand, Section 51-12-5.1 of the Code of Georgia mandates a $250,000.00 limit for punitive damages.
Pros and Cons of Wrongful Death Settlement Calculators
Using a wrongful death settlement calculator benefits families seeking to know the monetary value of their case.
- Most wrongful death calculators are free. You can use them without paying initial consultation fees. Most lawyers charge $350 per hour, which can be costly for some people. Fortunately, you can use a wrongful death settlement calculator to preliminary evaluate the settlement amount.
- You can easily use the calculator. Most wrongful death settlement calculators have a user-friendly interface. They ask a series of questions regarding your relationship to the deceased, the possible cause of wrongful death, the incident’s date, and the accident’s description.
- You can set your expectations. It can give an idea of the amount you can recover. For example, you might be anticipating a $200,000 settlement amount. However, the calculator only estimated a $100,000 settlement for your case.
A wrongful death calculator also has its disadvantages. Consider the following:
- The result may be inaccurate. These calculators do not consider the unique facts of your case. They rely on general assumptions about wrongful death cases, which may give you false expectations. For instance, you might expect almost one million in the settlement, but the actual amount may only be $250,000.
- It may disregard the non-economic damages. Some calculators may disregard the loss of companionship and pain and suffering. Moreover, they may miscalculate the punitive damages the court may award.
- It does not replace legal advice. An attorney is better equipped to estimate the value of your case based on the unique facts and applicable laws. They can conduct a thorough investigation of the case to give you a more accurate assessment. They also give personalized legal advice, which the calculators cannot provide.
Using Wrongful Death Settlement Calculators Effectively
Despite its limitations, you can use a wrongful death settlement calculator more effectively by collecting accurate evidence and seeking the help of a lawyer.
Gather accurate evidence
Wrongful death calculators depend on the information you provide to generate an estimate. If you provide inaccurate details, the calculator will also generate an inaccurate number.
For example, suppose your receipts indicate medical expenses of $65,000, but you input only $50,000 into the calculator. It may yield a lower estimate. Consequently, you may agree to a lower amount.
Conversely, the calculator will likely predict the exact payout if the family members provide accurate information. Hence, It’s crucial you gather the necessary and related documents to help estimate the amount of your claim. Working with a wrongful death lawyer can help you collect the following essential evidence:
- Death certificate
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Employment records
- Autopsy reports
- Witness statements
Police reports provide an accurate description of the incident. On the other hand, a complete medical record, including receipts, lets you know the exact amount to demand from the at-fault party. Hence, you must account for every medical expense. Moreover, the employment records stating the decedent’s salary help you determine the actual lost wages and future earning potential.
Consult with an experienced attorney
Besides providing legal advice, a lawyer can accurately calculate your damages or settlement money. They will ensure that all expenses are accounted for. As a result, you can receive fair compensation.
Lawyers can also negotiate with insurance companies and other parties, maximizing your chances of receiving the expected compensation. Insurers usually offer low settlement amounts, but lawyers with years of experience can use their legal knowledge and techniques to demand a higher settlement.
In addition, they can represent your claim in court should it go to trial. They will persuade the jury or judge to rule in your favor. As a result, you can get sufficient compensation to cover medical bills, funeral expenses, and monthly financial support. Hence, it is important to hire an attorney for a successful wrongful death case.
Did you know?
The case of Tyler Thomas is one of the largest verdicts in wrongful death actions. The Nemaha County jury awarded his family $2.64 billion, with $2.4 billion as punitive damages.
Find a Wrongful Death Attorney
An experienced lawyer can provide a thorough evaluation of your case, ensuring you have realistic expectations regarding the settlement amount. You can also use a wrongful death calculator, but it may disregard other damages. Moreover, it cannot replace an attorney’s legal advice.
Visit The Personal Injury Center for free legal information about wrongful death cases. Tell us about your case, and we will connect you with a lawyer who can assist you through the process of recovering compensation.
A lawyer can help calculate the value of a wrongful death case. Book a free consultation with The Personal Injury Center, so we can match you with an experienced attorney.
FAQs on Wrongful Death Settlement Calculator
Generally, it can take up to six weeks. But the timeline depends on the case's complexity and the parties' willingness to negotiate. If all parties are cooperative and open to compromise, the negotiation period may be shorter.
A civil case requires a lower burden of proof, wherein plaintiffs only need a preponderance of the evidence. On the contrary, a criminal case requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, a civil case demands monetary compensation from the defendant. But a guilty verdict in a criminal case results in the imposition of fines or jail time.
The at-fault party may pay through a lump sum or structured settlement. In a lump sum, the plaintiff receives the entire settlement amount at once. But in a structured settlement, the dependents get tax-free payments in periodic installments.