How To Calculate the Value of a Wrongful Death Case

Madeleine Jones
December 11, 2018

A wrongful death claim allows the surviving loved ones of a deceased individual to recover compensation when the deceased’s death happened due to negligence or an intentional act. Many types of compensation may be available to wrongful death claimants, depending on the type of claim, the economic situation of the deceased, and state laws.

Damages Available in Wrongful Death Claims

The untimely and unexpected death of a loved one can place significant financial strain on the surviving family, and a wrongful death claim is the primary safety net for families in this position. The damages available in a wrongful death claim typically relate to all damages experienced by the deceased from the moment the negligent or intentional act in question occurred until death.

  • Damages could include pain and suffering the deceased experienced between the act in question and his or her death.
  • Damages could include medical expenses for treating the deceased’s final illness or injury. For example, a negligent car accident causes serious injuries, and the victim spends several weeks in the hospital before finally succumbing to his or her wounds. In this situation, the medical expenses for treating the final illness or injury would be quite substantial.
  • Damages could include funeral and burial expenses.
  • Damages could include wages lost from the time of the act in question until death.
  • Damages could include property damages suffered by the deceased from the act in question, such as the cost of repairing or replacing a damaged vehicle.

The other damages available typically relate to the surviving loved one’s losses. For example, if the deceased was still working and the primary source of income for the family, the family could claim the deceased’s lost future earning capacity from the time of death until his or her expected retirement date. In most cases, this will require testimony from an expert witness who can provide the court with an understanding of the full scope of the family’s economic losses. Other damages available to the family in a wrongful death claim may include compensation for their loss of affection, care, consortium, guidance, and value of household services.

Punitive Damages

It is also possible for the claimants in a wrongful death lawsuit to receive punitive damages if the defendant’s behavior was egregiously reckless, grossly negligent, or an intentional act. Punitive damages hinge on the defendant’s finances; a wealthy defendant should expect to pay much more in punitive damages than a defendant with limited finances. These damages serve as a warning to the defendant and others that similar behavior in the future is unacceptable.

Quantifying the Death of a Person

It is very difficult to assign a monetary value to a human life, so the damages available to wrongful death claimants are generally substantial. The justice system understands that there is really no way to assign a financial value to a person’s life, but it is possible to measure the economic impact that the loss of that life can have on the deceased’s family.

Expert witnesses typically play crucial roles in wrongful death claims. An expert witness with a background in a relevant medical field can help the jury understand the full scope of the deceased’s pain and suffering resulting from his or her final illness or injury. A financial expert will help the jury understand the economic impact of the death and provide reasonable estimates of what the deceased would have reasonably expected to earn in the future had he or she survived.

If you or your family have questions about a recent wrongful death and are not sure about what types of compensation may be available to you, contact an attorney as soon as possible. Our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers are able to provide an accurate estimate of the damages owed to you after a wrongful death and help start the legal process.