All Questions

April 8, 2021 | Gary Burger

What Factors Determine My Wrongful Death Settlement?

What factors determine the value of a wrongful death case? While monetary compensation does nothing to undo the events that led to the passing of your loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit helps provide financial support to the surviving family members and acts to hold the responsible party accountable for what they did. If you are involved in a wrongful death suit, it is important for you to understand what factors can affect the value of your case. This and other valuable information can be provided to you by any experienced St. Louis area wrongful death law firm.

Burger Law is a legal powerhouse in wrongful death law. The St. Louis wrongful death lawyers of Burger Law have recovered millions of dollars for the families of wrongful death victims in St. Louis and throughout Missouri and Illinois. No one should get away with taking a life. Burger Law makes sure that no one does. If you have lost a family member due to another person's negligence, you may have a wrongful death case. Discover how we can help your family through this time by reaching out today for a free consultation. Call 314-542-2222 or fill out our form now.

Factors that Determine A Wrongful Death Settlement

How can one put a price tag on a person's life? There is no way to fairly quantify a person's material worth. However, there are indeed factors at play in a wrongful death case that affect the ultimate settlement amount. Each case varies so much, but here are a few factors that make a difference in the damages a family can recover.

The decedent's role in the family and community

The damages and losses that can be recovered in a wrongful death case depend on the decedent's role in relation to the surviving family members who have suffered the loss. For example, the wrongful death of someone who was single with no dependents and did not work results in damages and losses that look much different than that of the head of the household with a spouse and multiple children for whom they cared for and supported financially.

Factors like income and the number of family members are at play here. For someone who had children and a spouse, there could be individual claims for each surviving family member. For a decedent who had held a high-paying job and/or was a primary caregiver to others in the family, there will be higher damages from loss of income and loss of future earnings and for the loss of support and comfort.

In addition to the decedent's family, their relationship or role in the community can also make a difference. The settlement for the death of a beloved member of the community or someone who had a reputation for helping others, volunteering, and participating in the local community will be starkly different from someone who had a history of getting in trouble with the law or was not seen as a productive and good-natured person within the community.

The perception of the defendant

It is difficult to quantify, but who the defendant was and what type of behavior led to the death plays a role in the ultimate settlement of a wrongful death case. Were they acting maliciously or intentionally? Was the person grossly negligent or was it an unintentional mistake?

Gary Burger recently won a three million dollar judgment in a wild wrongful death case where the defendant was convicted of criminal offenses for the events that led to the death of a man with disabilities. The defendant tricked and took advantage of the man and then shot and killed him. The details of this tragic case can be found here.

That case played out much differently than one where a driver is texting and driving and causes an accident that kills another driver.

Insurance coverage

The idiom applies here: you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip. In a wrongful death case, your settlement is somewhat limited by the money and assets of the defendant, but, even more so, by the insurance coverage.

It is often most realistic to settle for the policy limit, as, even in a case of extreme negligence or one in which the decedent was a six-figure earner, the defendant will not be able to pay much more. This doesn't mean that you can't pursue a higher settlement, though. In the above example, the $3 million in the case was a judgment ordered by a judge. In reality, the family will probably receive nowhere near that amount from the defendant.

On the other hand, if your wrongful death case involves an organization such as a commercial trucking company or a hospital, the insurance coverage will be much higher. Your wrongful death lawyer will understand which parties to pursue claims against and should provide you with realistic expectations on what you may receive depending on the defendants' insurance policy.

Your wrongful death attorney

So much of a wrongful death case depends upon the nuances of the parties involved. This is even more true when your case goes to a jury trial. A jury is made up of human beings with their own feelings, opinions, experiences, and memories. When presenting your case in the courtroom, your St. Louis wrongful death attorney must have an understanding of people and a command of language and legal practices necessary to speak to the hearts and minds of the jury and appeal to their humanity.

Many cases can be settled successfully before reaching a trial. The time it takes to settle your case and the legal steps it takes to reach the settlement depends on the skill of your lawyer and the willingness of the defendant. Many times the defendant is eager to settle outside of court. However, some defendants adamantly refuse to take responsibility and refuse to offer a reasonable settlement. If that is the case for you, you will need to have a skilled trial attorney representing you and your family. The wrongful death lawyers of Burger Law have that experience and are ready to help you heal.

St. Louis Wrongful Death Lawyers | Burger Law

We understand that you have many questions as you begin a wrongful death claim. Burger Law has experience as a winning wrongful death law firm and recognizes the importance of sharing our knowledge to help the families of wrongful death victims understand the process and provide them comfort throughout the legal process. If you have lost a loved one due to another person's negligence, reach out to Burger Law to find out how we can help. Discuss your case with a real St. Louis wrongful death lawyer by calling 314-542-2222 or messaging us here.