How Is Death Compensation Calculated?

Wrongful death claims are one of the most difficult lawsuits to experience. Not only have you just lost a loved one under traumatic circumstances, you have to go through a stressful lawsuit. An experienced wrongful death attorney can guide you through this process and ensure that you receive a properly calculated death compensation.

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How are awards and settlements calculated?

You may be wondering, “How are wrongful death settlements calculated?” Awards and settlements are calculated by the harm caused to both the victim and the survivors. Settlements are typically awarded after both parties agree upon a negotiated settlement amount based on various damages.

Both parties must consider the economic and non-economic damages the plaintiff has experienced. The severity of these damages strongly influences the settlement amount awarded.

Economic damages

Economic damages constitute the plaintiff’s objective monetary losses due to the incident. Two of the most common economic damages typically include: 

  • Medical expenses (past and future): Any medical bills the plaintiff has endured will be considered when determining these damages. In a typical personal injury case, past and future medical expenses will be considered for the plaintiff; however, in a wrongful death lawsuit, only the past medical expenses of the victim will be looked at. 
  • Lost income (past and future): Lost income is a common factor in calculating settlements in personal injury cases. In many of these cases, the plaintiffs are unable to work and thus suffer financially due to the lack of income. In a wrongful death suit, the representative of the deceased victim may be awarded for the lost income of the deceased as well. 

Other economic damages that may be considered in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits include: 

  • Property damage
  • Loss of employment
  • Domestic services

Non-economic damages

Non-economic damages constitute subjective, non-monetary losses of the plaintiff as a result of the incident. Some of the most common non-economic damages used to calculate settlement amounts include:

  • Pain and suffering: Victims may be compensated for pain and suffering following an accident. This often includes any physical pain that may be the direct result of the accident or any physical discomfort from medical treatment following the accident. While this is a common component used to calculate awards in personal injury cases, it may also be used by the deceased party’s representative in a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Emotional distress: Similar to pain and suffering, a victim may be awarded damages based on any emotional distress they may have endured due to the incident. Emotional distress may include anxiety, mental suffering, sleeplessness, depression, and more.
  • Loss of consortium: Loss of consortium constitutes the damages suffered by anyone close to the victim, such as the spouse/partner or close family members. This type of non-economic damage is a common factor in wrongful death claims due to the emotional distress of losing a loved one.

Evidence needed to prove a wrongful death claim

To pursue a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff needs to be able to prove negligence. Negligence is “the failure to use reasonable care, resulting in injury or property damage to another.” To successfully prove that a defendant was negligent in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must be able to establish the four elements of negligence

  1. Duty – The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
  2. Breach – The defendant breached their duty of care to the plaintiff
  3. Causation – The defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury or death
  4. Damages – Measurable damages were the direct result of their family member’s death

Who can file a wrongful death claim?

Family members of the decedent can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The order in which family members can file a wrongful death claim is as follows: 

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Children of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased
  • Heirs of the deceased

What is the average settlement amount for a wrongful death claim?

The average settlement amount for a wrongful death claim varies on a case-by-case basis. Various factors come into play when determining the settlement amount. Some of the most common factors that must be taken into consideration for a wrongful death claim include: 

  • The decedent’s income
  • The decedent’s age
  • The decedent’s health status prior to their death
  • The decedent’s income at the time of their passing
  • The decedent’s level of education
  • The decedent’s dependents

How are wrongful death settlements paid out?

Wrongful death settlements may be paid out either as a lump sum or occasionally as a structured settlement. 

Is there a cap on wrongful death settlements?

Yes, there is a cap on wrongful death settlements. The damages cap determines the maximum amount of financial compensation that the claimant may receive for specific damages. There usually is no cap on economic damages. 

Are wrongful death settlements taxable?

Any compensation received as part of your wrongful death settlement for lost wages — including past, present, and future wages — is considered taxable income

How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim in Colorado?

The wrongful death statute of limitations requires that the loved ones of a wrongful death victim have two years to file a claim. However, the Colorado wrongful death statute of limitations offers an exception in cases when the death occurred due to vehicular homicide. With this exception, a loved one has up to four years after the death has occurred to file a claim.

Do you need to hire a wrongful death lawyer?

Hiring a wrongful death lawyer is essential if you want to obtain justice for the untimely death of your loved one. The Bachus & Schanker law firm has a team of advocates who are there for wrongful death victims and can guide you through this difficult time.

Discuss your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer

Discussing your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you understand your rights and what you may be eligible to be compensated for. The wrongful death lawyers at Bachus & Schanker understand the sensitivity behind these issues. They are eager to help navigate you through this troubling lawsuit and understand the death compensation calculation.


Bieber, C. (2023). Wrongful Death Lawsuit Guide 2023

Ending the Confusion: Economic, Non-Economic, and Punitive Damages

Goguen, D. (2023). Personal Injury Damages and Compensation.

Negligence Definition. (2023).

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Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus

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Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.