Compensation Available for Wrongful Death

When a family loses a loved one, there is a loss of companionship, a loss of finances, and a loss of guidance and parental support for children.  While every state has its own wrongful death laws regarding the specific compensation in a claim, most states compensate the family for those losses.  Compensation to the estate is also available for the cost of medical expenses preceding death as well as reasonable funeral expenses

The Illinois Wrongful Act states:  “In every such action the jury may give such damages as they shall deem a fair and just compensation with reference to the pecuniary injuries resulting from such death, including damages for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering, to the surviving spouse and next of kin of such deceased person.”

Determining the Amount of Compensation

When determining the amount of compensation, a jury will consider factors not considered in other types of suits like the mental and emotional pain one suffers when a loved one is lost unexpectedly. States have different rules for allowing compensation for pain and suffering as well as different limits for such awards.  Juries attempt to put a dollar amount on what a child will miss by not having that parent in his or her life when deciding wrongful death verdicts.  It is a very subjective and imperfect procedure which requires an experienced wrongful death injury attorney who knows how to effectively use exhibits and experts to help the jury in valuing the loss.  Given the inability to predict what a jury might see what are fair wrongful death awards in a case, some states give the judge an opportunity to lower or raise the dollar amount if the award is unfair to the family, or to the person who acted negligently. 

Other Determining Factors

In calculating an award, a jury will also consider the age of the surviving dependants and the amount the deceased contributed to their finances and their emotional well-being.  If a young dad dies due to someone’s negligent behavior, a jury will consider how much that dad would have contributed to his children had he lived as well as how much he would have contributed to his spouse.  A formula will be created using the ages of the children as well as the age of the deceased. In addition to considering the financial contribution the children will miss, the parental guidance and support a child will miss is also given a dollar value in wrongful death lawsuit settlements.  Obviously, no amount of money can replace the guidance a parent would give his child, but it is the only thing the jury can give the survivors. A similar formula is used in determining the loss to the spouse.  If they had a long life ahead of them, the value will be higher than if they were both older and had a shorter life expectancy.  A skilled attorney should be able to help you better estimate your possible compensation.

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