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Your Guide to Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Settlements

Posted By Anapol Weiss on this July 10, 2020 at 1:06 pm

woman with her face in her hands

Many people wonder what wrongful death lawsuits average when trying to decide if they want to pursue one. Unfortunately, there is no average wrongful death settlement, as every case is as unique.

While we have had tremendous success winning wrongful death awards for our clients, your results will depend entirely on the merits of your case. Understanding what goes into wrongful death settlements can go a long way toward making sure you get the money you need to help cover the expenses and loss you’re now faced with.

What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs as the result of an injury that should not have happened, often as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Your average wrongful death lawsuit settlements are based on a variety of factors that take into account the liability involved, the circumstances surrounding the death, the bills and expenses derived from the injury and death, and how that death affects those left behind. The judge will consider the facts of the case and, if the claim is successful, determine the appropriate amount of settlement for both economic and noneconomic damages.

Your claim will work to establish for the judge that the death was accidental, unnecessary, or preventable, directly caused by the defendant’s actions, that the actions were negligent or otherwise not in line with reasonable practices, and that the damages were extensive enough to justify the wrongful death awards you’re asking for. This can be a complex and difficult to manage process, which is why you should always work with a qualified personal injury attorney who’s experienced in wrongful death litigation. 

Breaking Down The Injury Portion Of A Wrongful Death Claim

When deciding whether or not you have the potential to win wrongful death lawsuit settlements, the average person may not fully understand how to evaluate their claim’s particulars. To start, a wrongful death lawsuit is similar to a personal injury claim. 

Liability 

This determines who is at fault for the injury. In some instances that liability may lie solely on one party, while in others it may be spread across several parties. It can even partially be the fault of the person who was injured. In these cases, the amount of the settlement is generally lowered by the percentage of liability that’s ascribed to be theirs. Liability is often based, in part, on the actions a reasonable person would take in that situation.

For accidental injuries, such as car wrecks, this may depend on traffic laws and safe driving practices. A slip-and-fall injury in a grocery store may base this determination on OSHA and consumer safety laws. Accidents as a result of someone acting in an official capacity, however, such as a police officer or doctor, may also rely on a duty to act.

In these cases, determining liability also means establishing the defendant had a reason that they were responsible to act in a certain manner. A doctor who doesn’t adhere to accepted medical care standards may be considered negligent, but only if the injured party had an established relationship as their patient. This relationship creates responsibility, which leads to liability if they do not provide an appropriate level of care.

Connect The Defendant’s Actions and The Wrongful Death

It’s not enough to prove liability. You will need to establish that the defendant’s actions led directly to the victim’s death. There has to be a clear causation for a successful case, not only proving the chain of events that resulted in injury or death, but also that it is unlikely to have had a different cause. 

This can be difficult to establish, as it relies not only on proving the defendant’s action, but removing enough doubt for the court to agree a preponderance of evidence validates your claim. While this is a lower threshold than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal cases, when the defendant is a large or well funded entity, such as a hospital, they have plenty of resources for attorneys and investigators to help them fight your claim. That’s why getting an attorney involved in the process early is so important.

While all these factors contribute to average wrongful death lawsuit settlements, wrongful death awards also factor in the eventual loss of life which occurred as the result of the injury. This Adds an additional level of complexity to the case, but can also make wrongful death settlements worth more to the survivors who are suddenly dealing with the tragedy.

Filing A Wrongful Death Claim

In Pennsylvania, there are two separate timelines in which to file a wrongful death claim. While both follow the two-year Statute of Limitations, how early a suit can be filed differs depending on your relation to the decedent:

  • Estate’s Representative: The official representative of the victim’s estate is the only party who can file a wrongful death lawsuit within the first 6 months after the date of death. This gives the decedent’s officially recognized representative a chance to get the money needed to address remaining medical bills, funeral costs, and other debts.
  • Beneficiaries: After the initial 6 months have passed, anyone who is a beneficiary of the decedent can initiate a wrongful death claim. While this may also seek to cover debts, it is often used to address the loss the beneficiaries now find themselves dealing with. Beneficiaries  are most often spouses, children, family members and other loved ones named in the decedent’s will. 

Wrongful Death Damages

Average wrongful death lawsuit settlements will usually contain two classes of damages:

  • Survival: This includes the money survivors seek to record for debts related to the decedent’s care in the final days and their funerals. These closely mirror damages awarded in a personal injury lawsuit with the addition of the cost incurred with the final disposition of the body.
  • Loss Damages: This covers the loss of the decedent as a provider for the family. It can include damages based on lost income, their contribution to the household’s upkeep, and even the absence of their affections and comfort as a spouse and guidance as a parent. 

When combined, these fees aren’t meant to replace your loved one, but to help you adjust to their passing while moving on with your own lives.

Wrongful Death Settlements in Pennsylvania 

Under Pennsylvania law, the plaintiffs in a wrongful death suit can sue for the real damages leading up to and originating with a wrongful death. This amount can vary based on the charges incurred, but can easily reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

With the addition of damages to address the lost contributions, which are calculated from the date of their untimely death to their  normal life expectancy, some verdicts have been in the millions of dollars range. 

Visit our results page to see some of our successful litigations to get our clients the money they deserve. Every case has to stand on its own unique merits, however, and an experienced personal injury attorney can help it do just that. 

Get a Free Consultation With A Personal Injury Lawyer

When you contact us, you’ll get the personal attention your case deserves, One of our attorneys will meet with you to discuss your case and go over your best options moving forward. 

They’ll set realistic expectations about your chances of success, and how best to prepare for a claim. Once we accept your case, it becomes our cause, and we fight to do more than just meet the average for wrongful death lawsuit settlements.

Topics Personal Injury