Wrongful death actions can arise in cases where family is suing an individual, business, or other organization for causing the death of a loved one. These can often be major trials that involve many factors of proof and various laws. Wrongful death claims can often involve claims for complex calculations of damages, since the plaintiff may be claiming various losses (loss of consortium, loss of income, etc.)
As such, many wrongful death cases end up in a settlement. This can happen very early in the legal proceedings, often at the beginning of trial. Pre-trial settlements can also occur. In any event, settlements can often help both parties save time and resources by not having to undergo the full trial process.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Calculated?
Wrongful death settlement agreements may be calculated based on various factors including:
- The plaintiff’s relationship to the deceased person
- Whether the deceased person was helping to support the plaintiff financially during life
- Whether the plaintiff was jointly claiming benefits with the deceased person (such as medical benefits, retirement benefits, etc.)
- Various other expenses, such as funeral arrangements, legal fees, etc.
The settlement calculations can also involve a number of subjective factors, such as the costs associated with the deceased person’s protection of the plaintiff, or their contributions to business or academic relations. An expert witness can sometimes be brought in to help with the calculation process.
Are Punitive Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Settlement?
Some wrongful death lawsuits also include a punitive damages component if the defendant’s conduct was intentional or if it was particularly reckless. Punitive damages are issued according to the court’s discretion, so they are not included automatically in a private settlement. However, the parties may consider such factors, especially in cases where the defendant clearly acted intentionally.
In cases where the parties are unable to reach a settlement, they may need to proceed with the court trial so that the judge can intervene in the situation.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Wrongful Death Settlement?
Wrongful death claims are major proceedings and generally require the help of a qualified lawyer. You may need to hire a personal injury attorney in your area if you need help with a wrongful death settlement. Your lawyer can help determine your legal options, and can also help when it comes to calculating settlement figures. Your attorney can be on hand to represent you and assist you during negotiations and settlement talks.