Following the death of a loved one due to another’s negligence, families often have several questions about their legal options.
In many cases, they bring a wrongful death claim against the party responsible in an effort to seek damages on behalf of the surviving family members.
One of the most common questions we receive from those contemplating a wrongful death claim is how much the average settlement is.
While there isn’t a true average settlement amount that captures most wrongful death cases, there are several factors that affect the overall value of a claim. Here’s an overview of why a wrongful death settlement calculator or average isn’t as accurate as an estimate provided by an attorney.
Why Average Wrongful Death Settlement Amounts Aren’t that Accurate
On the internet, there are countless sources that claim to know the average settlement for wrongful death claims. While these figures might seem trustworthy at first, they are somewhat misleading.
There are a few different reasons for this. The first reason is that many of these sources don’t include confidential settlement amounts.
With so many case results kept behind closed doors, it’s impossible to figure out a true average that includes all case types. That being said, most averages only use figures from published case results.
Another reason why average wrongful death settlements aren’t that useful is that the gap between the largest and the smallest cases is too substantial. For example, cases on the lower end of the spectrum may only settle for tens of thousands of dollars, while those at the top result in millions of dollars in recovery.
Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Calculator Offer a Better Estimate?
In an effort to help families estimate their potential settlement, many websites have free calculators specifically for wrongful death claims.
Unfortunately, these calculators have one shortcoming shared by averages: they can’t accurately determine non-economic damages, such as mental anguish and loss of companionship.
Since these losses make up a major portion of many wrongful death cases, these calculators aren’t as accurate as they seem. In fact, many of them only include options to calculate economic losses, like funeral or burial expenses.
The most important thing to keep in mind with wrongful death is that it’s impossible to place a true value on a human life.
That being said, many of the losses families experience following the death of a loved one are intangible, and the goal of non-economic damages is to quantify those losses. It’s unlikely that a basic calculator can capture the true cost of losing someone.
Four Factors That Affect a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settlement
In § 768.21 of the Florida Statutes, the state lists the types of damages families may seek as a result of their loved one’s death.
This includes some future losses based on both the potential lifespan of the deceased if they’d lived and the previous support they provided to others. Generally, these factors are the most important when determining the value of a wrongful death settlement.
The Age, Income, and Health of the Deceased Before Death
When calculating future damages, many attorneys look at the overall health and financial status of the victim before their passing. Through this information, they formulate the likely future income of the deceased based on their life expectancy before the fatal incident.
For example, if the family member was in good health and could’ve expected to live another 30 years, the attorney calculates the total income that they would have provided to their spouse and other dependents.
The Value of Benefits Provided by the Deceased
While it’s easy to focus on income alone, there are other benefits that loved ones may provide prior to their death. Some of these include employer-sponsored medical insurance, retirement accounts, or even household upkeep.
If the deceased was a stay-at-home parent, what is the cost of continuing that childcare? What if their medical insurance provided coverage for other family members? These are the questions that attorneys try to answer when examining these losses.
The Costs Incurred by the Family of the Deceased After Death
Other than funerary services, there are many costs that a family may incur after their loved one’s death, not all of which are financial. The mental trauma alone is enough to cause pain and suffering for the surviving family. In this case, an attorney may seek compensation for that anguish.
Whether the Deceased Had Young Children
The companionship, care, guidance, and instruction a parent provides to their children is invaluable. If a parent with young children passes away, the loss of the intangible support they would have provided to their children if they had lived is taken into account in calculating damages.
Losing a Loved One Isn’t Easy, But You Don’t Have to Seek Justice Alone
If you lose a loved one in an incident caused by another’s negligence, don’t put all your trust into an online wrongful death settlement calculator.
At Barrett, Nonni, Homola & Ferraro, we know that this is a difficult time for you and your family. However, we want you to know that you aren’t alone. We have over 40 years of experience representing wrongful death claims and understand the lasting damage that an unexpected death causes.