Wrongful Death: Settling vs. Going to Trial

When deciding whether to settle or go to trial, it is important to think about your needs and goals of your wrongful death complaint. 

  • Do you want to punish the person or company responsible for their wrongful death negligence of your loved one? 
  • Do you want legislative changes to protect others in the future? 
  • Do you want a scholarship for the children of the deceased? 
  • Do you want the public to be aware of the potential danger? Do you want a public apology?
  • Do you want wrongful death compensation and get as much money as possible for the family and don’t really care about a public apology? 
  • While there is no amount of money to replace the value of your loss, carefully consider how much money you need to provide for the survivors before you other start to offer you numbers.

Accepting a Lawsuit Settlement

When a there is a wrongful death lawsuit settlement, the defendant often puts in a request to keep the details confidential and sometimes that means that there will never be an acknowledgement of wrong-doing on the part of the defendant and there might not ever be any publicity about the danger that caused the death of your loved one.  When considering your goals regarding the wrongful death suit, it important to think about what goals matter most to you before you are faced with a large sum of money for settlement that might skew your goal of getting a public acknowledgment of the problem.

Think about the definitions of “to settle” and “trial”:

To settle:  to put into order, arrange or fix as desired.  to restore calmness or comfort to; to stabilize as sure; to make compensation for; to decide by mutual agreement.

Trial:  the examination of evidence and applicable law to determine the issues as specified charges or claims; the act or process of testing or trying by use and experiment; a test of patience or endurance.

Taking a Wrongful Death Suit to Trial

A trial is a long process that puts the family members through reliving the accident.  Family members and witnesses will be asked questions to recreate the accident.  Attorneys will present histories of the deceased.  Usually attorneys use slide shows or videos in creating sympathy from the jury.  Whether you and your family members want to go through reliving the accident and reliving personal memories in a public forum is an important factor to consider when thinking about settling vs. going to trial.  The process of answering interrogatories, going through depositions, and testifying on the stand can take over a person’s life and after the death of a loved one, it may be best to settle and move on.  It is easier to get on with life if the trial is not putting the accident front and center in the family’s life day after day.

Settle or go to Trial?

As in any case, your attorney may have different goals as you do and when faced with a large monetary settlement, the attorney will know that he can get his percentage of the award without going through the time and expense of going to trial.  On the other hand, if you have a strong case, it will be well worth his time to take the risk of going to trial.  It is vital that you know what your own priorities are going into the process so that when you are faced with having to make a decision regarding settlement or going to trial, you are ready.  A good attorney can help you sort out the merits of your case as well as your options for moving through settlement or trial.

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