How Do You Calculate a Wrongful Death Settlement?
When you tragically lose a loved one in an accident, you’re left with outstanding expenses and uncertainty for the future. You may have medical bills and last expenses for your loved one. It can be hard to imagine what life will be like without your loved one.
When you’re left with worry and doubt after the sudden loss of a family member, you may want to know the value of your wrongful death claim. How do you calculate a wrongful death settlement? Here’s what you need to know from our Denver wrongful death lawyers.
What Is a Wrongful Death Settlement?
A wrongful death settlement is a payment that you receive when a loved one dies because of the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of another person. When your loved one loses their life because of legally actionable negligent conduct, you may deserve compensation as your loved one’s surviving representative. Your compensation represents the loss of life of your loved one and an additional amount for the mental anguish that you endure as a surviving relative.
How Do You Calculate a Wrongful Death Settlement?
You calculate a wrongful death settlement by placing a monetary value on the loss of life of the victim. Of course, calculating the value of a life is a difficult task. You account for the age of the victim, their earning capacity, medical bills and expenses, and loss of health, life, and opportunities. You add an extra amount for pain and suffering for surviving family members.
Factors to Consider When Calculating a Wrongful Death Settlement
Here are some of the factors to consider when you calculate a wrongful death settlement:
- Age of the victim
- The victim’s earning capacity; current income; their education and professional training
- Health of the victim at the time of death
- Needs of surviving dependents; ages of surviving dependents
- Medical bills and burial expenses
- Loss of pension and health insurance
- Mental and emotional anguish for surviving family members
- Any other relevant personal circumstances
- Punitive damages for cases of extreme misconduct
There are no rules about how much to value each factor. Each case is an individual determination of the circumstances surrounding the victim, their family, and the details of the accident.
Determining a Wrongful Death Settlement
When you’re determining a wrongful death settlement, you must consider all of the relevant factors that are specific to the victim and their family. But you must also account for the facts in the case. If you have a very strong case under the law, your settlement is going to be higher than if there are factual or legal weaknesses in your case. If the responsible party has insurance or substantial assets available to pay your claim, your settlement is going to be bigger than if they have no insurance and few resources to pay a claim.
Determining a wrongful death settlement can be a tricky question; in fact, there is no way to truly calculate a wrongful death settlement. You look at all of the factors present in the case, and then you determine a value range where your case likely lies. You work to settle the claim within that value range.
Colorado Wrongful Death Cap 2019
Colorado law allows you to collect unlimited amounts in economic damages for wrongful death. Payment for your loved one’s medical bills and burial expenses are unlimited. However, Colorado law imposes a cap on compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering and emotional distress.
When the wrongful death cap first passed, the limit was $250,000, but it’s been adjusted for inflation. Today, the limit is approximately $468,000. You can recover up to the non-economic limit in addition to and on top of what you can recover for economic damages. If the case involves fraud, malice or willful and wanton misconduct, you may receive exemplary damages equal to the amount of actual damages.
Example of a Wrongful Death Case in Colorado
If the responsible party doesn’t offer you a fair wrongful death settlement, you can try your case in court. You can ask the jury to award you the proper amount even if the other side doesn’t agree with it. One example of a wrongful death case that went to the Colorado Supreme Court is the Rauschenberger v. Radetsky case from 1987.
In the Rauschenberger case, the victim’s family filed a wrongful death claim alleging medical misdiagnosis and improper prescription medications. The defense sought to throw out the case because the statute of limitations had passed. In Colorado, the deadline to file a claim, called the statute of limitations, is two years after the negligence occurs or one year after the death, whichever is later.
The victim’s family argued that the discovery rule applied to extend the statute of limitations. They said that they weren’t aware that the prescriptions were damaging to the victim’s health until after the statute of limitations had run. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed. The Supreme Court said that it’s up to the finder of fact, the jury, to decide if the victim’s family knew or should have known of the grounds for the wrongful death claim before the statute of limitations expired. If you’re in a similar situation, you may use the discovery rule to extend the time limit to your wrongful death claim.
The vast majority of wrongful death cases settle. Very few cases go to trial. In fact, building a strong case through diligent preparation and legal strategy can make your claim more likely to reach a settlement.
Contact Our Denver Wrongful Death Attorneys
Have you lost a loved one? Are you wondering if you may have a wrongful death claim? You deserve answers. At Bachus & Schanker, LLC, we’ve built our legal practice around helping deserving victims and their families.
When a tragic death occurs, you may not even realize that you have a wrongful death claim. Let our attorneys investigate your case and evaluate your claim. We can give you honest, compassionate advice about your rights.
There’s no cost to speak with a friendly member of our team. Your call is confidential. Call us today to begin.
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