How Much Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?

Two people in black mourning and leaving flowers at a deceased loved one's grave.It seems impossible to put a monetary value on a human life, but in order to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s necessary to do so. Your attorney will ask you questions to help determine a value for each of your damages or losses caused by the death.

Once this step is complete, we will add up these damages to get an idea of how much your claim should be worth.

Here are some of the damages we will consider in estimating your claim’s value:

  • Final medical expenses. When a person passes in a hospital, the final days or hours of their life often involve some of the most expensive kinds of medical care. Receiving treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU), for example, can cost thousands of dollars a day. In many cases, health insurance may only cover some percentage of this care or may refuse to pay for specific procedures or treatments entirely. We will seek compensation for any remaining medical bills.
  • Funeral expenses. The median cost of a funeral and burial was just under $8,000 in 2021, and a funeral with cremation was a little below $7,000. If the deceased had a modest life insurance policy, these expenses could consume most of it, leaving the family with little money to pay other bills.
  • Loss of financial support. If the deceased was partially or fully supporting the family, the loss of income can be catastrophic. Again, life insurance may only pay the family’s expenses for a few months, especially if medical or funeral bills are an issue. We’ve met people who were forced to take a second job at a time when they wanted to be more present for their children. Others struggle to pay their regular bills or save money for future expenses like their kids’ education. We know that money problems are the last thing you need while grieving, so we will estimate your loved one’s projected future earnings if they had lived and seek compensation in the lawsuit.
  • Loss of benefits. Sometimes, a person’s passing leaves their family members without health insurance, a pension, or other benefits, which we can also seek to recover.
  • Other economic damages. We’ll ask about other new costs you may have. For instance, if you lost your spouse, who was a stay-at-home parent, you might have to start paying for daycare, a nanny, house cleaning services, etc.
  • Pain and suffering. We will also seek compensation for your mental or emotional anguish.
  • Loss of companionship. This might include loss of consortium, love, care, advice, guidance, and other attributes of a relationship.
  • Punitive damages. The word punitive refers to punishment, and in this context, it means damages intended to punish the defendant rather than compensate the victims. In Utah, punitive damages are only awarded if there is significant evidence that the defendant’s actions were willful, malicious, fraudulent, or showed a knowing and reckless disregard for the rights of other people.

What Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement?

First, we want to caution you against making assumptions about the value of your own claim based on averages. Each claim is different, and the numbers attached to each of the damages explained above vary wildly.

Some people have no final medical expenses, while others have tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. A younger person with a high income might have millions of dollars in projected future earnings, while an older person nearing retirement with a more moderate income could have considerably less.

We frequently see claims that settle for $500,000 to several million dollars, but again, an individual claim may be worth more or less depending on the specific situation. If you really want to know the value of your claim, we recommend speaking to a wrongful death attorney about your situation.

Will You Have to Go to Court in a Wrongful Death Case?

In most cases, we will file your lawsuit with the appropriate court, but it’s unlikely that it will go to trial. Most wrongful death claims are settled out of court through negotiations with the other party or their insurance carrier.

How Quickly Will You Receive a Settlement Offer?

This is also variable depending on circumstances, and we often see multiple offers before arriving at a number that both the client and the defendant agree on. In general, if you receive an offer very quickly, it may indicate that the defendant or insurance company is eager to settle.

Frequently, first offers are on the low side, and we will negotiate for a better offer. Your attorney will discuss every offer received with you.

If we believe the offer is insufficient to cover your damages or that it would be in your best interest to seek a better deal, we’ll tell you that. But in the end, it’s your decision whether or not you want to accept an offer, and we’ll assist you in any way we can.

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Payout?

Most of your settlement will not be taxed, but some portions might be. The IRS doesn’t tax compensatory damages, which are most of the damages listed above. However, if you receive punitive damages, these are not considered compensatory and will be taxed.

There are a few other exceptions, such as expenses that you took as tax deductions, that will also be taxed. An experienced attorney can advise you on how best to handle any taxes you need to pay.

How Do You Receive a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Payout?

There are two possibilities: A lump sum payment or a structured settlement.

Lump Sum Payments

A lump sum payment is exactly what it sounds like – you receive the whole settlement as one payment. Many people like this option because it allows them to pay off debt like medical bills or past due payments without accruing interest (or any more interest than you’ve already accrued).

For instance, if a loved one’s passing left you in a position where you had to live off your credit cards for months, this might be an excellent way to wipe the slate clean and start fresh without debt.

However, lump sum payments may cause difficulties in some situations. Someone who relied on a deceased spouse or family member to manage the household finances or give investment advice may be overwhelmed with trying to manage a large payout.

Others may be busy trying to balance work and family life on their own and simply don’t have the time to make complicated financial and investment decisions for a lump sum. In these situations, you could consider a structured settlement, or you might choose the lump sum and seek help from a professional financial advisor.

Structured Settlements

A structured settlement is an arrangement where the family member receives regular payments over a period of time, sometimes years. For some people, this is easier to manage because they get a small amount of money regularly and use it as needed for recent bills.

It’s a predictable income that may continue for months or years and can provide financial security.

But there are also drawbacks to a structured settlement. Once you agree to this arrangement, the terms are difficult to change.

If you have a sudden need for additional funds, you may find it challenging to get your money faster than usual.

Have you ever seen one of those ads asking if you have a structured settlement and need cash now? Those are usually for companies that liquidate structured settlements – at a discounted amount.

In other words, you might be able to get some of your money now, but you’ll lose money overall. For this reason, we encourage you to think carefully about whether a structured settlement is right for you.

If you’re unsure, your attorney can answer any questions you have about the different types of settlements.

What Do You Have to Prove in a Wrongful Death Case?

In most cases, we will need to prove the other party was negligent in a way that led to the death. We’ll work to show that the defendant had a duty of care or responsibility to avoid injuring others. (What this means differs depending on the situation.)

Then, we need to demonstrate how they failed in this duty and show that this failure is what caused the death. Finally, we’ll detail your damages.

Many people are unsure whether their loved one’s death qualifies as a wrongful death or whether they have a strong case. If you have similar concerns, we encourage you to speak with a wrongful death lawyer who can help you determine if there was evidence of negligence in your family member’s death.

Talk to a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

If you need help with a potential wrongful death case, please contact Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. We’ll go over the accident report or other documentation, answer your questions, and explain your options.

Valley Law was founded by attorney Brigham Richards, who dedicates himself to helping injured people and their families get what they deserve after being impacted by negligence. He works on each case from beginning to end, including litigation, negotiation, and resolution.

Mr. Richards is also fluent in English and Spanish. Call his team today at 801-810-9999.

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