It is impossible to put a dollar value on the pain and grief that comes with an unexpected loss in the family. While the law does allow certain relatives of a deceased person to recover compensation following a wrongful death, there is no easy process of determining what that claim is worth.
Ultimately, how much a wrongful death lawsuit is worth will depend on a number of factors. Whether or not state law allows the surviving relatives to recover monetary compensation for their own pain and suffering is one factor. So is the cost of the decedent’s medical bills related to their final illness or injury.
The Challenge of Calculating the Value of a Claim
There are a few factors that make it difficult to estimate what a wrongful death case is worth. For starters, there is no way to compare the outcome of these cases across the board. Wrongful death settlements are typically done confidentially, which limits public access to the value of these settlements.
Furthermore, every wrongful death claim is different. The cost of a person’s medical care prior to their death can vary substantially, and so can the specific nature of the injury or illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 167,000 unintentional injury deaths in the United States in 2018 alone. These deaths involved everything from car accidents to falls. The facts of each case will help determine the potential value of the claim.
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Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Claim
The types of compensation available in a wrongful death lawsuit vary from state to state. While it is impossible to put a price on losing a loved one, courts can identify the expenses associated with things like medical care or funeral costs. Some of the most common types of damages in a wrongful death claim include:
- Medical bills. Many people receive emergency medical care prior to their passing. Whether their death was related to a preventable injury or illness, these medical bills could be extensive. A successful wrongful death claim could result in compensation for these expenses.
- Lost wages. The surviving family could be entitled to compensation for the decedent’s lost wages. This includes the wages lost while they were receiving emergency medical care and the future wages the family would have relied on.
- Funeral and burial costs. Funeral and burial expenses can be significant. With a wrongful death claim, you could recoup those costs.
- Value of unpaid assistance. Most families share the burden of common household tasks. From folding the laundry to mowing the lawn, these tasks can take up a substantial amount of time. Because your loved one is no longer able to take on these chores, you could recover compensation for the cost of hiring help.
- Loss of companionship. It is possible to recover damages for the loss of companionship experienced by a close family member. In the case of a married individual, this could also include a claim for lost spousal relations.
In some jurisdictions, a wrongful death action does not allow for the surviving family to recover damages for their emotional distress. However, the law may allow this type of compensation under different circumstances. If a family member was present at the time of their loved one’s death, they could pursue a separate lawsuit based on their emotional distress claim. This action may only be available to individuals with a close family or marital relationship.
Evaluating a Claim
When your attorney takes on your wrongful death claim, they will thoroughly review all of the available information before estimating the potential value of your case. This effort begins with a deep dive into the facts of the death. This could include reviewing police reports, medical records, photographs, or other records.
Next, the attorney will identify all of the out-of-pocket costs related to the death. On top of these economic losses, they will also estimate the value of subjective losses like loss of companionship. While no attorney can perfectly predict the outcome of your case, a careful evaluation could prepare you for what to expect.
Discuss Your Wrongful Death Claim with Legal Counsel
You should never take on the stress of a wrongful death claim on your own. The attorneys of Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi P.C. understand how losing a loved one due to another’s negligence is devastating. To learn how we can serve you in this challenging time, call (201) 585-9111 to speak to a member of our team and determine how much a wrongful death lawsuit is worth.