The sudden demise of a loved is usually more than devastating – the kind of losses that can never be quantified monetarily. However, there are specific provisions in sections of the law that allows the families whose kin has been negligently or wrongfully killed to claim for an “equivalent” value of the deceased’s life.
Quite a number of factors will be considered, but before we delve into the specifics, it is important to know how death can be classified as wrongful.
Understanding what a wrongful death is
A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim brought by surviving family members against a person that can be held responsible for the death. The death could be as a result of injury, homicide, medical malpractice, accident or negligence of another party.
It is always painful and uncomfortable to attach an economic value to a lost life, but when the surviving spouse and other family members are left financially vulnerable due to unexpected death where another party can be held responsible, it becomes the only option to remediate the situation.
A lot of people find themselves with huge burdens of medical bills, funeral costs, and additional financial obligations such as taking care of the children of the deceased. For these and other reasons, the surviving spouses or relatives find some quantum of solace in seeking monetary recovery through such lawsuits.
The amount of settlement
In trying to understand the average settlement for wrongful death suits, it is important to remember that it is impossible to attach a dollar value to the life of a person.
Due to this, the amount of settlement takes into consideration many factors and the factors will vary considerably based on the circumstances and the uniqueness of each case. Some of the relevant factors considered in the determination of the settlement include:
- The age and health of the deceased at the time of death
- The earning capacity of the dead
- The income of the deceased at the time of death
- The training and education of the deceased
- The age and circumstances of the deceased’s loved ones
- The value of lost benefits such as health insurance and pension
Wrongful death settlements awarded in the recent past
To give you a glimpse into the variations and average settlements that can be expected for wrongful deaths, below are examples of some settlements awarded in the recent past:
- $150 million for a 13-year-old who witnessed the demise of her whole family in a car accident.
- $1.5 million for the family of Michael Brown who was shot and killed by Police in Ferguson.
- $32.3 million for a woman who died after a motorist drove into the store she was working at.
- $500,000 for a family of a man shot dead by police in California
- $950,000 for the parents of a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide because of bullying by peers.
In considering the amounts of the above damages, it is not just ballpark estimates that were given. They had to be supported by objective evidence and economists, and expert witnesses may have been called upon to look at the various circumstances to help the jury in coming up with appropriate compensation.