A jury in California awarded a 13-year-old girl $150 million in damages after she witnessed her family burn to death in a car accident. Another jury in Pennsylvania awarded $227 million in a settlement after a deadly Center City collapse.
So how much can you sue for wrongful death? As you can see, the average wrongful death settlement value can vary greatly. This is partially due to the specific circumstances of the passing and the state the death occurs in.
Follow this guide to help you determine how much you can sue for in your wrongful death claim.
How Much Can You Sue for Wrongful Death?
There’s no wrongful death lawsuit settlement average number that you should sue for when making a wrongful death claim. The amount you should sue for is determined by the loss and damages you experience.
Skip the Wrongful Death Calculator
You may find online wrongful death settlement calculators that claim to be able to tell you your potential recovery. Don’t trust them.
Each case has unique factors that these calculators can’t accurately predict wrongful death settlements. Your best course of action is to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney.
Can You File the Wrongful Death Claim?
Only certain people can file a wrongful death claim. Typically the representative of the estate will file the wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased and their relatives. Only certain survivors qualify.
In all states, the spouse of the deceased can file a claim. Parents of deceased minor children and minor children with deceased parents can all file a claim.
More Distant Relatives
Each state has its own requirements for who can qualify for recovery. Things start to get more confusing when its parents filing a claim for adult children or vice versa.
States also vary greatly when it pertains to grown siblings filing a claim for their adult siblings or extended relatives such as cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
As a general rule, the more distant the relationship, the harder it will be to prove a legal claim and just compensation.
Romantic Relationship Exception
One exception is a romantic partner that is financially dependent on the deceased, but there is no legal marriage. Some states allow the romantic partner to file a claim despite there being no direct legal, familial relation.
Tally Your Monetary Losses
It may feel awkward, but if you want to file a wrongful death claim, you need to show that you’ve experienced a financial loss. No amount of money will replace your loved one, so focus on claiming compensation for tangible losses.
Calculate the cost of hiring someone to do the household tasks your loved one did. This could include cooking, cleaning, or laundry.
You can include funeral and burial expenses. Then determine the future financial support your loved one would have provided. This number needs to be a reasonable amount of money based on their career and current compensation.
Finally, you can include an estimate for future gifts and benefits that you would have received if your loved one had lived. It can be challenging to estimate what your loved one would have accomplished in the future. Use their age, experience, work history, and education.
The estate can also bring additional claims for medical expenses incurred and pain and suffering.
Consider Your Intangible Losses
Some states let surviving loved ones sue for emotional pain and suffering. This may include some of these claims:
- Loss of attention
- Loss of guidance
- Loss of moral support
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of affection
- Loss of sexual relationship
While these losses are real, they are intangible, so they are harder to quantify with a value. This is where it becomes critical that you hire an experienced and skilled attorney. There’s no receipt or bill you can submit as a part of your claim, so it’s up to your attorney to present proof of these losses.
Possible Claim Detractors
You don’t automatically get awarded the amount you ask for. Some contributing factors can reduce the award amount.
Deceased Partially at Fault
If your loved one contributed to their own accident, this can reduce the amount of the recovery. In most cases, the situation is not black and white, where one party is 100% the victim and the other party is 100% at fault.
Often, the victim contributed at least some amount to their own demise. This is taken into consideration, and the settlement award is reduced by the percentage that the deceased was at fault.
Statute of Limitations
Each state has a statute of limitations that you must stay within when making your claim. If you wait too long, you could be barred from making a claim, and then you would receive nothing.
Lack of Effective Representation
Wrongful death claims are not your standard legal claim, and you need an attorney who’s experienced in them. If you hire an attorney who lacks the necessary knowledge and experience with lawsuit settlement amounts, you could end up with a settlement amount that’s lower than it could have been.
What You Must Prove
To have a successful wrongful death claim, you’ll need to “step into the shoes” of the victim and prove their claim. This means meeting the burden of proof that the victim would have to meet if they had lived.
Once you prove the original claim, then you can address the wrongful death claim and the losses you’ve incurred.
File a Claim for Your Loss
If you’re wondering how much can you sue for wrongful death, the best thing to do is speak with an experienced attorney. They can help you through this difficult time.
Use their experience and knowledge to ensure you ask for all possible damages to ensure you receive everything you’re entitled to in your wrongful death claim.