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How Much Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement?

Losing a loved one is never an easy process. Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or intentional actions is a devastating experience. In these instances, pursuing a wrongful death claim can provide some form of justice and financial compensation for the surviving family members. However, one common question arises: How much can one expect to receive in a wrongful death settlement?

Several factors influence the average wrongful death settlement amount; each case is unique. Final settlement amounts can vary widely based on specific circumstances and details of the case. The best way to determine how much your wrongful death case settlement might be is to discuss the case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer.

Types of Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death cases can arise from various circumstances and situations, including:

How Much Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement

Car Accidents

Car accidents are a leading cause of wrongful death cases. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of innocent victims yearly die in motor vehicle accidents on U.S. roadways.

These fatal accidents may involve negligent driving, such as speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving, or failure to obey traffic laws. Sometimes they even result from intentional actions. If the negligence of another driver results in a fatal accident, the surviving family members may have a wrongful death claim.

Another cause of car accidents is defective vehicles. If a vehicle has a design defect, manufacturing defect, or inadequate safety features contributing to a fatal accident, the surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death claim. Examples include faulty brakes, defective airbags, or SUV rollovers due to design flaws.

Medical Malpractice

Wrongful death claims can also arise from medical malpractice. If a healthcare professional fails to provide the expected standard of care for their industry, resulting in the death of a patient, the surviving family members may have grounds for a wrongful death case. Examples include surgical errors, anesthesia errors, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, medication errors, or birth-related complications.

Workplace Accidents

Fatalities in the workplace due to unsafe conditions, lack of proper safety measures, or employer negligence can lead to wrongful death claims. Some examples are construction site accidents, industrial accidents, falls, faulty machinery, non-adherence to safety precautions, lack of safety gear, and exposure to hazardous substances such as chemicals or asbestos.

Product Liability

Wrongful death cases may also involve defective products. If a product is defectively designed, manufactured, or labeled, leading to a fatal accident or injury, you may hold the manufacturer or distributor liable for wrongful death.

Examples include defective household appliances, power tools, children’s toys or other products, or electronic devices that pose hazards leading to fatal injuries. Medical devices such as pacemakers, artificial joints, surgical implants, or even dangerous drugs can lead to wrongful death claims.

Nursing Home Negligence or Abuse

When a loved one dies due to neglect, abuse, or inadequate care in a nursing home or assisted living facility, the surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim against the facility or its staff.

Restraining with excessive force, inappropriate use of physical restraints, and failure to provide proper nutrition, hydration, personal hygiene, medical care, medication administration, or a safe living environment are all examples of potential wrongful death cases involving nursing home care.

Criminal Activities/Intentional Acts

If someone dies due to the criminal actions of another, such as murder, manslaughter, or assault, the surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death case. Criminal charges won’t result in compensation for wrongful death damages—only a civil claim will.

Dangerous Premises

Wrongful death cases can arise from accidents on someone else’s property due to dangerous conditions, inadequate maintenance, or failure to warn of potential hazards. This includes slip and fall accidents, swimming pool or pond accidents, trampoline accidents, or fires caused by faulty electrical systems. Property owners and caretakers must generally maintain their property in a safe condition to prevent possible injuries.

It’s crucial to note that these are just a few examples, and wrongful death cases can arise from various other circumstances. Suppose you have lost a loved one due to the negligence or intentional actions of another. In that case, it’s essential to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can evaluate your case and guide you through the legal process specific to your situation.

Factors Affecting Wrongful Death Settlements

Several factors come into play when determining the average wrongful death settlement.

These factors include:

  • Liability: The strength of the evidence establishing the at-fault party’s liability is crucial. If liability is clear and well-supported, it may increase the likelihood of a higher settlement.
  • Age and occupation: The age and occupation of the deceased are considerations when calculating the economic losses suffered by the family. Younger individuals with promising careers may have higher potential earnings, resulting in larger settlements.
  • Financial impact: The financial impact on the surviving family members is an important consideration. This includes loss of income, medical expenses, funeral costs, and other related expenses. For example, if the decedent was the primary breadwinner for the family, the settlement is likely to be larger.
  • Emotional loss: Non-economic damages, such as emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and mental anguish experienced by the surviving family members, also factor into the settlement calculation.
  • Insurance coverage: The amount available insurance coverage plays a significant role in determining the settlement. If the at-fault party has substantial insurance coverage or if there are multiple at-fault parties with insurance coverage, it may increase the potential settlement amount.
  • Strength of the case: The strength of the evidence and the likelihood of success at trial can impact the settlement negotiations. A strong case with persuasive evidence may lead to higher settlement offers from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
  • Attorney skills and experience: It should go without saying that a more experienced wrongful death claims attorney is in a better position to negotiate a higher settlement. The negotiation skills and experience of the legal team representing the surviving family members can influence the settlement outcome. Skilled negotiators can secure higher settlement offers. Selecting an attorney with vast experience and success in these claims can boost your compensation.
  • Jury verdicts: If a wrongful death case goes to trial, the jury’s verdict can significantly impact the settlement negotiations. Insurance companies may be more willing to offer a favorable settlement before risking a potentially more significant jury award.

 

Types of Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death settlements typically encompass various types of damages, including:

  • Economic damages: These include financial losses suffered by the surviving family members, such as loss of income, medical expenses, funeral costs, and future financial support that the deceased will have provided. Economic damages are typically easier to calculate as they have an inherent value.
  • Non-economic damages: These damages cover intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and the impact on the surviving family’s quality of life. Because they don’t have a price tag, you will need to work with a skilled wrongful death attorney to calculate and recover full and fair compensation for them.
  • Punitive damages: In some cases, the court may award punitive damages to punish the at-fault party for egregious or malicious conduct. However, the availability of punitive damages varies by jurisdiction and the case’s specific circumstances. Remember, punitive damages don’t apply to claims that settle outside of the courtroom since only a judge or jury can award them.

 

Average Settlement Amounts

Settlement amounts can range from thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the factors mentioned earlier. Determining an average wrongful death settlement amount is challenging due to the unique nature of each case.  However, it is helpful to consider some general trends and examples:

Low-Value Settlements

In cases with unclear liability, minimal damages, or a low-income deceased, you may recover a relatively low settlement amount. These settlements often cover funeral expenses, medical bills, and modest compensation for emotional distress.

Medium-Value Settlements

Cases involving stronger liability, significant economic losses, and substantial emotional impact on the surviving family members can result in medium-value settlements. Considering economic and non-economic damages, these settlements may range from several hundred thousand to a few million dollars.

High-Value Settlements

Wrongful death cases involving clear liability, extensive economic losses, substantial emotional suffering, and strong evidence may result in high-value settlements. These settlements can reach multi-million-dollar amounts, especially in cases involving egregious misconduct or corporate negligence.

What are the Benefits of Settling a Wrongful Death Claim?

Settling a wrongful death claim can provide many benefits to all parties involved.

While each case is unique, some potential advantages of reaching a settlement in any wrongful death claim exist.

  • Closure and emotional relief: Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or intentional actions is emotionally devastating. Settling a wrongful death claim can provide a sense of closure, allowing the surviving family members to move forward with their lives and focus on healing emotionally.
  • Timely resolution: Lawsuits, especially those for wrongful death claims, can be a lengthy and emotionally draining process. By reaching a settlement, parties can avoid prolonged litigation and its associated costs, allowing for a quicker resolution. This can provide the family with financial assistance and closure sooner rather than later.
  • Predictable outcome: Trials can be unpredictable, and there is always uncertainty when a case goes to court. Settling a wrongful death claim gives both parties more control over the outcome. By negotiating and agreeing on a settlement, the parties can determine the compensation amount and terms acceptable to all involved rather than leaving the decision to a judge or jury or even risking the possibility of an appeal.
  • Decreased costs and expenses: Litigation is typically expensive, considering the costs associated with attorney fees, court fees, expert witnesses, and other legal expenses. Settling a wrongful death claim can help decrease these costs, as parties can avoid the prolonged legal process and associated fees.
  • Privacy: Lawsuits can attract media attention, potentially exposing sensitive details of the case to the public. Settling a wrongful death claim can help maintain privacy for the grieving family, allowing them to avoid unwanted publicity and scrutiny during an already difficult time. Suppose the at-fault party is a public figure, doctor, or well-known company. In that case, they can also help avoid such scrutiny and exposure by settling the claim.
  • Financial security: Wrongful death settlements often compensate the surviving family members for various losses, including medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering. The settlement can provide financial security and stability, helping the family cover immediate and future expenses.

The decision to settle a wrongful death claim should be made after careful consideration, weighing the potential benefits against the case’s circumstances with your wrongful death attorney. An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance and help determine if a settlement is the best action based on the case’s details.

Facing a Wrongful Death Claim? Hire an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Today

Determining the average wrongful death settlement amount is complex, as it depends on various factors unique to each case. The strength of the evidence, the financial and emotional impact on the surviving family members, insurance coverage, and the negotiating skills of the legal team all play significant roles.

Consult an experienced wrongful death attorney who can assess the specific details of your case and provide crucial guidance to your family throughout the legal process.

Understanding the factors involved and seeking appropriate legal representation can increase your chances of obtaining a fair and just settlement that provides financial support and a sense of closure during this challenging time. Allow a personal injury attorney to seek proper justice for the tragic loss you suffered.

Lauren Varner, Personal Injury Attorney

Lauren is a Personal Injury Attorney. She is Colorado native who became involved with the field of personal injury long before she became an attorney. Lauren’s professional philosophy centers around good old fashioned hard work, producing quality work product, and treating others professionally, with dignity and respect at all times.

Awards and as featured on

National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 Included in TOP 40 Under 40 by The National TRIAL Lawyers in Centennial CO Varner Faddis Top Lawyers Denver Badge – 5280 Magazine American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorney Top 40 Under 40 5280 Denver Top Lawyers
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