Wrongful DeathWhat Factors Determine the Value of a Wrongful Death Claim?

June 17, 20240

Around 224k people die every year because of preventable injuries, including 98k people killed because of medical errors. That’s a lot of deaths that could have been avoided!

When someone tragically dies due to the negligence or wrongful actions of another party, the surviving family members may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim. These claims seek to provide financial compensation to account for the various losses and damages resulting from the untimely death. But what exactly determines the value of a wrongful death claim?

There are several key factors that come into play.

Economic Losses

One of the primary components of a wrongful death claim is the economic losses suffered by the surviving family. This includes the projected future earnings of the deceased individual, which are calculated based on their age, occupation, earning capacity, and other factors. The claim will seek to recover the income the deceased would have provided to support their family over the course of their estimated remaining working life. If a husband dies, for example, and he was the main breadwinner for his wife and three kids, it will have a catastrophic financial impact on his surviving family.

Additionally, the claim will account for the loss of benefits such as health insurance, pension contributions, and other compensation the deceased would have earned and provided to their family. The value of household services the deceased would have performed, such as childcare, home maintenance, and other domestic duties, is also factored into the economic losses. So, if a mother dies and she took care of all the childcare, her surviving partner includes all his future costs in a wrongful death claim.

Medical and Funeral Expenses

Another element of the damages in a wrongful death claim is the medical expenses incurred prior to the deceased’s passing, as well as the costs of the funeral and burial. These out-of-pocket costs that the family has had to bear as a result of the tragic event can be recovered through the claim.

Loss of Companionship and Guidance

Beyond the strictly financial impacts, wrongful death claims also seek to compensate the surviving family members for the profound loss of their loved one’s companionship, care, and guidance. This “loss of consortium” is a significant form of noneconomic damages that aims to account for the emotional devastation and disruption to the family’s way of life.

The value assigned to this loss of companionship and guidance will depend on factors such as the closeness of the relationship, the age of the deceased and surviving family members, and the degree to which the deceased provided essential support, nurturing, and direction to their loved ones.

Punitive Damages

In cases where the actions that led to the wrongful death were particularly egregious, reckless, or intentional, the court may award punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct in the future.

The amount of punitive damages is based on the reprehensibility of the defendant’s actions, their financial resources, and other considerations. Punitive damages can significantly increase the overall value of a wrongful death claim.

Contributory Negligence

One factor that can reduce the value of a wrongful death claim is if the deceased individual was found to have contributed to the incident that led to their death. Most states have laws regarding contributory or comparative negligence that can diminish the damages award proportionate to the deceased’s degree of fault.

For example, if the deceased was determined to be 25% responsible for the accident that caused their death, the damages award would be reduced by 25%. The surviving family members would then only be able to recover 75% of the total damages. This may apply if the deceased was jaywalking when they were hit by a drunk driver, for example.

Jurisdiction and Venue

The location where the wrongful death occurred, and where the claim is filed, can also impact the potential value of the damages. Different states and even individual counties or cities may have their own laws, precedents, and norms that influence jury awards and settlements in these types of cases.

Wrongful death claims filed in jurisdictions known to be more plaintiff-friendly, or with a history of higher damage awards, may be worth more than those in more conservative venues. The experience and reputation of the attorneys involved can also play a role.

Ultimately, the value of a wrongful death claim is a complex calculation that requires a thorough evaluation of the unique circumstances of each case. Working with an experienced wrongful death attorney from our law firm is crucial to ensuring you receive the maximum compensation you are entitled to under the law.

By understanding these key factors that determine damages, families can be better prepared to navigate the legal process and obtain justice for their profound loss.

Talk to us today if you are reeling from a wrongful death in the family. You can visit our office at 700 Bishop St, Ste 2100, Honolulu, HI, 96813.

Call us today for a free consultation on (808) 745-1592.


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