The loss of a beloved family member is difficult at any time, but the pain and suffering is compounded when the reason for the death is an accident or negligence. Someone who has caused a death, whether it’s a individual who was responsible for a fatal car accident, an employer who didn’t provide safe working conditions or a physician who was negligent in the care of the deceased, can be held criminally liable.
However, it can be difficult to win a criminal case in negligence suits. The family does have another option, though. Pursuing a civil wrongful death case can help a family regain financial benefits lost due to the death.
Most people, when asked, agree that making a perpetrator pay financially for a death he caused is justified. The number of family members who follow through by actually filing a wrongful death suit is very small, though. In fact, according to some statistics, 10 percent or less of all accidental deaths around the country result in the filing of a wrongful death suit. While many families decide it isn’t worth the effort to file such a suit, those that do may receive substantial compensation for the death of a spouse, parent, child or other family member.
Law firms that specialize in wrongful death suits look at a number of factors when determining how much to ask for in judgment from an individual or company. The role of the deceased in the family is an important consideration. A parent’s lost wages, particularly if he or she is young, are a primary factor. A family member who died despite weeks or months under medical care may also receive a higher settlement or award due to the expenses incurred for his care.
Non-economic losses are also considered in assessing the monetary payment to be awarded to family members. The pain and suffering the deceased person experienced before his death is an important aspect of the settlement. The loss of a spouse’s consortium, another word for the physical relationship between married couples, may also be factored into the non-economic loss equation.
Many law firms advertise that they can win millions of dollars for clients who have lost a loved one due to a wrongful death, but those types of awards are infrequent enough to be newsworthy. Typically a wrongful death suit will bring a family a few hundred thousand dollars or sometimes just tens of thousands of dollars. Cases that are settled out of court typically bring $500,000 or less to a family, whereas cases that go to trial may see awards in the millions.
Monetary caps on damages for pain and suffering in many states can limit large awards made by juries. Monetary verdicts around the country typically come in at over $4 million for adult men and minors and $3 million for adult women and minors. Awards for people over the age of 65 average nearly $1.5 million.
However, settlement amounts vary widely due to the type of wrongful death that has occurred, as well as from state to state. There are examples of cases in which families received several million dollars following a wrongful death suit that went to trial. Two such cases in Maryland stand out. One family was awarded over $5 million due to the death of a woman following open heart surgery.
Evidence showed that wires improperly removed following surgery damaged a graft, causing the woman to bleed to death. In another case, a 23-year-old man’s family was awarded over $8 million when he died in a traffic accident. The driver of the car, who was found to be drunk at the time, crossed a center line and was hit broadside by a tour bus.
Families who feel they have a basis for a wrongful death lawsuit should be prepared for the case to take years to work its way through the courts. Wrongful death attorneys work with families to help them determine the best track to take to see a wrongful death case through to completion.
Steve Roberts founded the Law Office of Steve Roberts, LLC. By sticking to his principles of protecting the rights of people injured due to another, provide honest hard work, maximizing client recovery, and that clients always come first, he has developed a strong relationsip with the Colorado Community. If you have been injured, check out Colorado Roberts Law to speak to an attorney today.