What Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement in California?
Losing a loved one in an accident can be a traumatic experience. And when you are coping with a family member’s death, thinking about filing a lawsuit may feel even more overwhelming.
As you consider the option, you may have a multitude of questions, including whether or not you need an attorney, how much time you have before you have to file suit, and what the average wrongful death settlement is.
At the office of Starpoint LC, our California wrongful death lawyers are here to answer your tough questions about wrongful death settlements and compensation for wrongful death.
While it is best to sit down with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your case in more detail, consider this brief overview regarding how wrongful death settlements are calculated--
Types of Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Action
The first thing that will affect the value of a California wrongful death settlement is the type of losses that the plaintiffs have suffered and are therefore seeking compensation for. In California, courts allow plaintiffs to seek compensation for both economic and noneconomic losses, including:
- Medical expenses incurred prior to death;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- The value of the decedent’s lost wages and benefits that would have been earned but for death;
- Loss of financial support; and
- The value of the loss of parental guidance, companionship, and affection suffered by surviving family members.
All economic losses--funeral expenses, lost wages, and medical expenses--will be calculated based on their actual economic value.
In other words, if funeral and burial expenses cost a family $10,000, then they can seek $10,000 in damages for these expenses.
Noneconomic losses, such as the value of lost companionship, are more difficult to calculate.
Factors that Affect a Wrongful Death Settlement
The first thing that will affect a wrongful death settlement, as stated above, is the value of actual economic losses suffered. In addition. Other elements that can have a significant effect on the amount of money plaintiffs are able to recoup include:
- The age of the victim. The age of the victim can have a very significant impact on the amount of money that plaintiffs are able to recover. This is in large part because specialists, when calculating lost wages and loss of earning capacity, will consider the amount of money that the victim would have earned and likely contributed but for death. A younger victim would have had many more working years ahead of them than would an older person, and therefore the younger the age of the victim, the greater the potential economic losses suffered by the family.
- Parental status, occupation, education, and relationship with family members. Other personal characteristics of the victim that can affect a settlement amount include whether or not there were married and have children (if so, these parties will have suffered emotional and intangible losses, which will increase the amount of damages included in a settlement), as well as education and occupation (those who are more highly educated or working in more lucrative industries would have likely had higher lifetime earnings than those without similar education, training, or employment status).
- Compensation available. Wrongful death settlements are almost always paid by large insurance companies, not out of the pockets of private individuals. Which means that even if fault of the defendant is clear and proven, and a family has suffered obvious and noneconomic losses as a result of a loved one’s death, the value of a settlement may come down to how much compensation is available. If the defendant doesn’t have insurance, or doesn't have enough insurance to pay a claim, and is not privately wealthy, it may be impossible for plaintiffs to recoup what they are truly owed.
Learn More About an Average Wrongful Death Settlement in California
No two wrongful death cases are the same, and as such, it is impossible to compare your case to another. Further, it is also impossible to know how much your case may be worth without a full investigation and review of all evidence and various factors that affect a settlement amount.
If you have lost a loved one in an accident, our hearts go out to you and your family. If you have questions about wrongful death claims and how much your case may be worth, please call our lawyers at Starpoint LC for a free consultation. We are here to answer your tough legal questions.