Dealing with a wrongful death claim can feel impossible in the wake of a loved one's unexpected passing. Understanding how a wrongful death settlement is calculated is an essential part of the process. Whether your loved one was the victim of medical malpractice or other unfortunate events, a wrongful death lawyer can help guide you through the process.

The Factors Involved in Calculating a Wrongful Death Settlement

Wrongful death settlement calculations involve multiple factors that range from intangible losses to economic damages, like funeral expenses and medical bills. Here are some of the factors that are considered when judges calculate a wrongful death settlement.

Economic Damages

Courts can consider many types of economic damages when determining an average wrongful death settlement. However, some of the common types of damages involved in this type of settlement include the following:

  • Funeral expenses and burial costs
  • Forfeiture of future financial compensation for the parties
  • Medical expenses and household services

This is not an extensive list of economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, but it introduces some of the most common economic damages awarded. For a more precise prediction of calculations in your case, it is best to speak with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney.

Funeral Expenses and Burial Costs

If your loved one died because of another person's negligent actions, sparking a wrongful death claim, you might be eligible to recoup the money spent on funeral and burial expenses as damages in your wrongful death settlement amount. These common economic damages awarded to the surviving family members are likely to be calculated in the final award.

Like all expenditures for which you hope to receive damages awarded by the court, it is best to keep a careful record of each expenditure. Keep bills, receipts, and any other documentation that accompanies each expense.

Forfeiture of Future Financial Compensation for Parties

Another economic damage that many loved ones successfully recover is the forfeiture of their loved one's financial compensation. If you depended on your loved one for their financial contribution to the household, their wrongful death could be doubly traumatizing as you are left scrambling to find a way to provide for yourself and your family. 

Whether your loved one's contribution to household finances was large or small, a negligent action wrongfully took their contribution away from you. The legal system recognizes that injustice and works to rectify that economic injustice in the fairest way possible. This can be demonstrated in the awarding of economic damages that reflect the loss of financial contribution.

Medical Expenses and Household Services

The families of a loved one who suffered a wrongful death are sometimes left with unexpected medical bills that may economically cripple the family for years or even decades to come. These bills are a direct result of the negligent action that caused the wrongful death and often reflect the hospital's best efforts to save the life of your loved one. 

The legal system may recognize that these medical bills resulted from the negligence that caused your loved one's wrongful death. Therefore, these hospital bills are often calculated into the court's economic damage awards to compensate you for your financial losses associated with the unfortunate wrongful death experienced by your family.

Intangible Losses

Economic losses are generally straightforward to calculate and often involve adding up various ills and expenditures suffered by the decedent's loved ones. On the other hand, intangible losses, also called non-economic damages, can be trickier to calculate. Calculating these intangible losses includes the difficult task of attaching a dollar amount to the feelings and emotions that fill the gaping hole left when your loved one was tragically taken too soon. 

Intangible losses can include damages like:

  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of gifts
  • Loss of companionship
  • Mental anguish

Additionally, if your loved one suffered before their passing, you may be eligible to receive reasonable compensation for their pain and suffering. Once the court calculates your economic damages and intangible losses, the court will include these amounts in the total wrongful death settlement payment.

What You Could Receive In a Wrongful Death Case

Whenever a court is asked to calculate damages for a wrongful death settlement, the final figure is somewhat of a mystery until the court reveals its final decision. This is especially true if non-economic damages are involved, as they are notoriously difficult to assign a dollar amount. The court will do its best to ensure those who bore the financial losses receive reasonable compensation to cover expenses and the mental distress of losing a loved one unexpectedly.

However, any wrongful death settlement estimates provided before the final legal decision are purely speculative. An ethical wrongful death lawyer will avoid guaranteeing any specific dollar amount in an upcoming wrongful death settlement because the judge's final determination can hinge on many factors. Some of these variables include the existence of children, state laws, and the facts of each case.

How Children Can Affect a Wrongful Death Settlement

Whether children were affected by the loss of your loved one can affect your damages. If you and your loved one cared for young children, it is possible — but not guaranteed — that the court may award a higher amount of damages. This is especially true if you listed significant non-economic losses.

Effects of State Laws on Settlements

Another factor is whether your state recognizes non-economic damages or places a cap upon them. For example, Florida does recognize intangible losses in wrongful death claims, but they are capped. Other U.S. states may not award non-economic damages, or they may be bound by higher or lower caps for these damages.

Settlements Can Hinge on Case Facts

The facts of your case can also affect your damages. For example, if your loved one died in an alleged case of malpractice caused by a negligent medical professional carrying malpractice insurance, then you may have a better chance of receiving more damages in a medical malpractice case than if an uninsured driver your loved one. In some cases, the money may not be available to award, unfortunately.

While some of these variables may seem unjust or frivolous when compared to the loss of your loved one, it is important that you discuss them with your wrongful death attorney and receive an honest assessment of your potential award or settlement. It is also important to acknowledge the attorney's assessment is not guaranteed.

Ensure You Receive a Fair Settlement in Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit

When you pursue wrongful death claims, it is critical that you receive a fair settlement. While it is possible to pursue a wrongful death legal claim without legal help, having a proven professional on your side can make a world of difference. The wrongful death attorneys at Ratzan, Weissman & Boldt are here to help. We can shoulder the legal burden while you focus on the grieving process. Contact us today.