How Does the Court Determine the Value of Life in Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
A death caused by another person’s or company’s negligence is a tragedy. There is no real way to compensate for the loss of a loved one, but many families affected by an accidental death will make a wrongful death claim or file a lawsuit to compensate those left behind.
A wrongful death lawsuit is where families of victims of an accidental death file a claim to receive money damages. They file the suit against the person or entity whose negligence caused the death. These deaths are usually caused by a car accident, medical malpractice from a professional, or a dangerous product.
The difficult part of a wrongful death lawsuit is establishing the monetary value of a person’s life. There are common factors used by lawyers and the court to arrive at an amount that the defendant will be ordered to pay to the deceased’s relatives and estate. No amount of money will replace lost loved ones, but damage awards may well pay for homes, cars, living expenses and college for children.
The attorney will usually start by determining the economic impact of a deceased’s life on his family’s financial future. value of the deceased. Specifically, they’ll look for damages and losses tied to those who passed. This can be affected by a number of factors:
- The deceased’s earning capacity
- Income at the time of death
- Value of lost benefits
- Number and ages of dependents
- Their level of education
- Medical and funeral expenses
These costs vary from person to person. A single 20-year-old restaurant cook with a GED will most likely have less economic assets and expenses than a married 44-year-old surgeon with three under-aged children.
These economic factors have to be supported with compelling evidence in order to reach the most accurate monetary settlement. Usually, personal injury lawyers work with economists to determine these values. This ensures that the victim’s family will receive adequate compensation for their economic damage. Bear in mind however, that the economic earnings are but one component of the overall recovery.
Along with the more numerically quantifiable economic damages, the attorney also looks at the emotional component of damages caused by the victim’s death. These can include:
- The emotional trauma of the family caused by the death
- The victim’s pain and suffering experienced before death
- Loss of a pillar of the family
These damages do not have any standard value since they are subjective. This is where an incredibly experienced trial lawyer can help you document and convey to a judge or jury the extent of emotional harm caused by the victim’s death, and the toll this loss has taken on the family.
If taken to a jury trial, your lawyer will have to argue on behalf of the deceased. They will need to show the positive effect the victim had on the lives of others and show how the loss has affected their family and friends, the community at large, and the worth of this life beyond monetary impact. This requires great skill, effective and emotional case presentation that impacts the tries of fact.
Specific Wrongful Death Claims in Virginia
Similar to many other court hearings, Virginia has specific laws in place for determining compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.
For one, Virginia has a damage cap for medical malpractice cases. If a member of your family suffers a death due to medical negligence, then you are allowed up to $2.25 million in compensation.
Choosing The Right Attorney
When deciding to file a wrongful death claim, it’s important to consult with an attorney beforehand.
An experienced lawyer with a proven track record of million-dollar results is essential. They can take you through your options to make sure you and your family receive full compensation for your loss.
They’ll be with you during every step of the lawsuit, making sure you understand the process and providing the most relevant and helpful information. Once in court, they will fight for your compensation and make sure your family is taken care of financially. Nothing can replace a loved one, but an experienced attorney can help ease your burden so you can focus on healing and putting the pieces of your life back together.
At Cravens & Noll, we believe in giving grieving families the compensation and closure they deserve. We’ll work with your unique situation and fight for your rights in court. We will fight the good fight. We will help you WIN your battle.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to a preventable accident, please schedule a consultation with us as soon as possible. It may be the best decision you will ever make.
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