Trying to determine the exact amount of financial compensation you can recover for a loved one’s death in a car wreck can be complicated. You have to factor in your loved one’s occupation and their potential lost future earnings. You also have to consider the value of the loved one’s companionship and support that would have contributed to the maintenance of a family.
Trying to quantify the value of a person’s life is impossible. Judges and courts have to make arbitrary decisions about the amount of money a person can recover for a loved one’s death in an automobile accident case. You also need to understand that judges will follow precedent and Texas law to determine the amount of money a plaintiff is entitled to for a wrongful death claim.
Our lawyers can help you find your way through the legal complexities associated with wrongful death claims and survival claims.
Some States Observe Pure Comparative Negligence
The responsibility for the car accident is divided between both parties, and the amount of financial compensation you can recover depends on the amount of fault levied against each motorist. If someone changed lanes and struck your car, they will be found to be responsible for the damages and will be 100% at fault.
If you were speeding, however, the court may assign a percentage of the blame to you. The other party may be found to be 80% at fault for the accident, but they will argue that you were speeding and thus contributed to the automobile accident. The court may find that you are 20% responsible for the automobile accident.
After the court makes this determination, you will receive a verdict or settlement, and 20% of the compensation will be deducted from the total amount because you contributed 20% of the fault that caused the automobile accident.
Factors the Court Considers When Deciding On The Amount of Compensation
The court will consider several factors when determining how much financial compensation a party should receive. One factor the courts will analyze is the deceased person’s age. A younger person would likely receive a higher settlement amount because of the longer life expectancy and the number of years that person could have worked and produced wages or other earnings.
The court will also consider the earning capacity of the individual. A person who worked as an attorney earning $200,000 per year would likely see a higher settlement amount than a truck driver earning $55,000 per year.
Also, the court will analyze the deceased person’s health. An individual in good health would likely be expected to live longer than an individual dying of cancer.
Age and extenuating circumstances are also considered by the court. An individual who left behind younger children could receive a larger settlement amount than a single individual with no dependents.
The court will also consider the deceased person’s education and professional training. Individuals who have more training and receive higher wages will usually see a higher wrongful death settlement amount than a person with only a high school education.
Courts also examine the number of medical bills that arose as a result of the automobile accident, the funeral costs, and the monetary value of the deceased person’s health insurance or pension.
The Court Cannot Approximate The Amount of Compensation
The amount of compensation the court awards after the death of a loved one in an automobile accident cannot be an estimate. The damages amount must be supported by strong and relevant evidence. Your experienced personal injury attorney and your wrongful death attorney can hire economists and financial professionals who can analyze the deceased person’s assets and determine an appropriate settlement amount.
Wrongful death settlements in automobile accident cases and other types of accidents are paid by insurance companies who give liability coverage to the entity or person who died as a result of their injuries. Insurance policies always have limits to the total amount of money they will pay out.
If you win a verdict or settlement for $5 million, you will only collect up to the maximum limit of the policy in effect at the time of the automobile accident. If the person or entity does not have sufficient insurance coverage, they are personally responsible for the settlement amounts or judgment amounts. Collecting the remaining amount of money can be extremely difficult when the party has few assets such as a home or land, or securities.
What happens next? The court will now consider intangible losses.
The Court Also Considers Intangible Losses
Many states recognize that you suffered emotional and psychological pain when your loved one died. The civil law allows you to receive financial compensation for the following items:
- Loss of sexual relationship
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of attention
- Loss of affection
- Loss of moral support
- Loss of guidance
These are not concrete and tangible losses, but they are real losses nonetheless. These types of losses can be difficult to calculate because no record or document identifies their value. You and your wrongful death attorney will review how you may demonstrate proof of these intangible losses.
Receiving Compensation For The Death of A Minor Child
You and your family might receive compensation for emotional pain and mental suffering if a child died as a result of the negligence of someone who caused an automobile accident. The definition of “minor child” varies from state to state. A minor child may be under the age of 15 in one state and under the age of 18 in another state.
The average financial award for the parents’ pain and suffering due to the death of their minor-aged child varies by jurisdiction. But the insurance policy limits usually cannot cover the whole case value.
Factors That May Lower Your Wrongful Death Settlement
You may not get as much financial compensation as you expected when you first filed your wrongful death lawsuit. Various reasons can contribute to the amount of financial compensation being lowered by the court.
Your deceased loved one may have contributed fault to the accident. A wife may not have used a turn signal. The total wrongful death compensation amount will be reduced according to the percentage of fault the deceased party contributed to the accident.
You may also have filed your lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline. In many states, the wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the automobile accident that caused the death of your loved one.
You also may not have an experienced wrongful death attorney, and this is a factor that can cause your total financial compensation to be lower than you expected.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The parties who are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit vary by state. Most states allow the following parties to file wrongful death lawsuits:
- Any person who can prove they were financially dependent on the decedent, such as the “putative spouse” and children of that spouse
- Any person entitled to the property of the deceased according to intestate succession, such as parents or siblings
- The deceased person’s surviving children can bring a wrongful death lawsuit
- The deceased person’s domestic partner can bring a wrongful death lawsuit
- The deceased person’s surviving spouse can bring a wrongful death lawsuit
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with an Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car wreck, it’s in your best interest to obtain legal representation as soon as possible. To schedule your free case evaluation with one of our wrongful death lawyers in Austin, call our office today at (361) 400-2036.