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How Do You Calculate a Wrongful Death Settlement?

Colburn Law

No amount of money can make up for the unexpected death of a loved one. A successful claim could, however, give your family the financial stability to pay for funeral and burial expenses, make up for lost wages, and continue to pay bills while you grieve. Washington wrongful death law, Section 4.20.020 of the state legislature, gives spouses and children of the deceased person the primary right to file an action. The damages you could receive in a wrongful death settlement depend on the monetary value of the case.

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What Damages are Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death claim may arise when one person’s negligence or criminal intent causes another person’s death. In these cases, if a qualified family member comes forward with a claim against the at-fault party within the state’s three-year deadline, surviving beneficiaries may receive financial compensation for their losses. Beneficiaries may recover under several categories of damages depending on the situation.

  • Any related medical bills
  • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost wages and lost inheritance
  • The victim’s pain and suffering
  • Survivors’ mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship, love, and guidance
  • Loss of household services

The claimant may also receive a punitive damage award, if the courts believe compensatory damages are not enough to make up for the wrongful death. Punitive damages serve to provide greater compensation for serious losses, as well as to punish the defendant for particularly gross negligence or intent to harm. A lawyer can help you understand which damage types the law may entitle you.

Which Factors Determine the Settlement Value of a Wrongful Death Case?

When determining the value of a wrongful death claim, insurance claims adjusters or attorneys will look at several different factors.

  • The age and state of health of the deceased person.
  • The victim’s earning capacity.
  • The victim’s income level at the time of death.
  • Circumstances of surviving dependents.
  • The victim’s education and training.
  • Medical expenses incurred.
  • Funeral/burial costs
  • The value of lost benefits

The insurance company may examine all these factors when negotiating a settlement. It is up to you and your attorney to also calculate the value of your claim, and to fight for the settlement you believe is fair for the loss of your loved one.

Washington Wrongful Death Settlement Calculator

The courts in Washington typically calculate a claimant’s losses based on a shared method. First, the courts will add up all the claimant’s economic damages. These may include accident-related medical bills or funeral expenses. Then, the courts will multiply these economic losses by a number between one and five, according to the severity of the situation, to calculate noneconomic damages. Wrongful death cases may receive higher multipliers, due to the extreme emotional distress and mental anguish of surviving loved ones.

For example, if the economic losses of an unexpected death amounted to $100,000 for a family, and the courts determined a fair multiplier of four, the family would receive $400,000 in noneconomic damages. Keep in mind this calculation method may vary from case to case. The amount calculated may not be the final amount the claimant receives. Settlement negotiations involve a lot of back and forth between the claimant and an insurance company. Most attorneys will start negotiations at a higher amount to leave room for the final number to drop.

Maximize Your Financial Relief

Hiring an attorney can ensure you and your family do not settle for less than the full and fair value of your wrongful death case. An attorney can give you a fair and honest estimate of what your claim could be worth, and take over settlement negotiations on your behalf. If you disagree with the settlement, your lawyer can proceed to take your case to trial.