Reports | February 10, 2023 | Personal Injury
You have several concerns when your family has lost a loved one due to someone else’s actions. One of your overriding thoughts is that you want justice for losing your loved one. In many cases, the person or company responsible for your loved one’s death will not face criminal charges. Nonetheless, you can still obtain some justice through financial compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Further, your family may also face financial problems after losing the income and support that your deceased loved one provided. You may have incurred medical bills for their treatment before they died. Families often cannot survive losing a loved one in an accident without financial compensation.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, it may be time to consider filing a wrongful death claim with the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer. With a successful claim, you may be able to receive the compensation you deserve for your damages, including medical bills, funeral expenses, and loss of income.
Damage Caps in Wrongful Death Cases
Many states have laws that limit how much compensation a plaintiff can recover in specific types of lawsuits, and certain states restrict how much a family can take home for wrongful death. Even if a jury awards more, the judge might have to reduce the award due to the damage caps in state law.
Although Florida attempts to limit lawsuit damages in other circumstances (for example, state law limits punitive damages to three times the compensatory damages), no such caps apply when the case involves wrongful death. Thus, families can get paid fully for what they lost when their loved one died.
Thus, it is up to you to fight for full compensation with the help of a wrongful death attorney. If you can prove a specific amount of damages, you can receive them with the right legal help.
How to Qualify for Wrongful Death Compensation
The prerequisite for negotiating compensation (or having the jury award you damages) is proving that someone else was to blame for your loved one’s death. If you do not have the necessary proof, you will be unable to recover any money. The wrongful part is the critical element in a wrongful death case.
You must show that someone else acted either:
- Negligently – They failed to uphold their duty of care by acting unreasonably under the circumstances
- Recklessly – Acting with knowledge that what the person was doing can cause harm to someone else (for example, drunk driving might be considered recklessness)
Your lawyer will work to gather evidence that establishes that someone else was at fault. Once you persuade the jury or get the insurance company to accept liability, you will then discuss specific dollar amounts.
Your First Step Towards Full Compensation Is Evaluating Your Claim
Before you even file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, you need to know precisely how much your case is worth. Without the base knowledge of the value of your claim, you will be at a significant disadvantage in settlement negotiations. The insurance company has a large staff and infrastructure dedicated to knowing the value of claims. You need similar knowledge but do not have the same large staff.
The good news is that you can level the playing field by hiring a personal injury attorney to handle your case. A lawyer also has access to resources that can help them come up with their own number for what your case is worth. Not only does your lawyer benefit from their own experience, but they can also work with various experts to help understand your family’s damages.
Your Compensation Pays for What Your Family Lost
Wrongful death damages can be very subjective, no matter how much the insurance company tries to take an individual family out of the equation. After all, a wrongful death case is your family’s own personal injury – how you have suffered from the death of a specific loved one.
For every wrongful death claim, you must tell the story of what your loved one meant to the family. This exercise is not sentimental; instead, it is how you will establish how much your family has suffered in losses.
Accordingly, the wrongful death claim compensates the family for their loss since the death is their personal injury. Your loved one played many roles in the family.
Compensation Includes Payment for Your Loved One’s Financial Contribution
Most obviously, your deceased family member may have been a breadwinner and a financial provider. Their loss leaves a sizable financial void in your family that you cannot easily fill. The loss of their financial support is a large part of your family’s damages. Thus, your family is entitled to lost wages that your loved one would have earned had they lived and continued to work.
Lost wages is a far less straightforward area than you may think. You don’t simply take your loved one’s earnings and multiply them by the remaining years of their career (no matter how much the insurance company might like to use that method).
Consider these factors:
- How many more years your loved one may have really worked?
- Their career path. Your family gets paid based on potential future earnings. Your loved one may have advanced in their profession and earned promotions for their lifetime, and you will be paid based on that.
- Inflation. The calculation of lost wages is not a static number that assumes the same wages in the future. Instead, it gets adjusted by the same inflation rates your loved one might have faced had they continued to work.
Accordingly, your personal injury lawyer will consult with vocational and economic experts to learn both your loved one’s career trajectory and economic trends in general.
Wrongful Death Claims Put a Financial Value on Your Loved One’s Role
Then, you will also need to quantify what your loved one meant to the family. As difficult as it may be, you will need to attach a dollar value to the meaning of your loved one. For example, if the deceased person had children and they were actively involved in the children’s lives, your family will lose the guidance the parent might have provided. They will also miss out on a close, loving relationship.
Although these are emotional matters, they also can have financial value attached to them. Many families only realize how much they can be worth when they hire an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help place a value on them.
In addition, your family will also receive compensation for the grief and trauma you have endured by losing your loved one in an untimely manner. The tragic death of a loved one will have lasting emotional and psychological impacts on you and other family members (who are on the list of people who can obtain compensation for wrongful death). Many people are never the same again after losing a loved one suddenly.
Your attorney may consult with psychological experts and use your treatment records for mental health counseling that you may have received. In this regard, you must seek counseling after the death of a loved one to help mitigate your damages. You can be paid for the effect that the death has had on you, and not just a generic measure of the impact of a death in general.
Working with your lawyer, you will come up with a total amount of damages to seek in a lawsuit or settlement agreement. You will begin with a starting number as part of a negotiation strategy to maximize your compensation from the responsible party and their insurance company.
The Estate Can Also Get Compensation in a Survival Action
In addition to the wrongful death damages the family can receive, the estate can also file a survival action in court. While a wrongful death case pays the family back for what they lost, a survival action compensates the estate for what the deceased person endured between the time of their injury and death. The fact that they died does not remove the legal right to compensation.
The estate can recover:
- The medical bills incurred to treat your loved one after their injury
- The pain and suffering that they endured because of their injury
- The emotional distress that they suffered, especially when they knew about their impending death
- The money that they did not earn from working between the time of their injury and death
You Will Need to Fight for Full and Fair Compensation
Just because you are legally entitled to certain damages does not mean you will automatically receive them. The insurance company also knows the amount of damages you should receive for losing your loved one. In this case, “should” does not automatically equate to “will.” What gives some teeth to “should” is the efforts of your personal injury lawyer, who will have to get in the trenches with the insurance company.
What will happen is that the insurance company will try to make you a paltry settlement offer. If your case is worth a million or more dollars, you can expect an offer in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. While that may appear tempting initially, you will be doing your family a significant disservice if you settle a wrongful death claim for less than it is worth.
The money in a wrongful death case pays your family back for what they lost when your loved one died. Everything in a wrongful death claim can be quantified and boiled down to dollars and cents. While you may not want to think about your relationship with your loved one in terms of money, it is precisely how you get compensated in a wrongful death claim.
The Contentious Negotiation Process Can Take Time
You will need to negotiate with the insurance company to increase your family’s compensation. That is the only way your family can get what it deserves in a settlement. You will likely negotiate with the insurance company, regardless of whether you filed a claim or a lawsuit. If you take the case to court, the insurance company must defend its own policyholder.
You can exchange multiple offers and counteroffers with the insurance company. After you reject the opening settlement offer (and an attorney will almost always advise you to say no to the initial offer), you will likely counter with an offer of your own. The insurance company may gradually raise its offer overtime to get closer to a settlement.
Explore a Wrongful Death Lawsuit With a Lawyer Today
You may need to file a lawsuit to have a better chance of getting the full and fair compensation that your family should receive. The insurance company will incur its own costs to defend against your lawsuit, which may be higher the longer the case lasts. In addition, the insurance company may want to avoid facing a jury because they know it will cost them more than a settlement.
However, the insurance company may need to be more serious about settling your case. They may have something to gain by dragging your case out for more time because they think they are wearing you down. When your family is patient while working with an experienced wrongful death attorney, you stand a better chance of winning the battle with the insurance company.
The last thing you should be doing in this difficult time is going back and forth with insurance adjusters and worrying about a lawsuit. Let a wrongful death lawyer handle all of this for you with no upfront cost.