Wrongful Death Car Accident Settlement: Value of Fatal Auto Crashes
Many surviving family members will file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover monetary damages when negligence or an intentional act causes the death of a loved one.
By law, the plaintiff can file a wrongful death claim against any individual, company, or entity that caused a death. Common defendants in a wrongful death car accident lawsuit include negligent drivers, medical professionals, product manufacturers, property owners, and nursing homes.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents surviving family members who lost a loved one through negligence or violence. Our law firm has successfully prosecuted cases for our clients whose loved one's life was cut short by the negligent actions of others.
Our attorneys are available to answer any legal questions on how to receive the monetary compensation you deserve if your damages were a result of negligence or violent attack. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
How Much Compensation Can I Recover For a Fatal Illinois Auto Accident?
Calculating the financial value of damages in a wrongful death claim can be challenging and often requires the expertise of economists, financial professionals, and attorneys.
Most cases are resolved through a negotiated settlement out of court where the case was resolved for an agreed-upon amount. Only a small percentage of all wrongful death lawsuits proceed to trial where a verdict might return an unexpected award, or the judge may dismiss the case outright.
Your attorney will evaluate a myriad of factors and variables to calculate the value of your case that might include:
- The Damages Attributed to the Decedent and Their Dependents – The worth of your wrongful death lawsuit depends on how many plaintiffs are involved in the case and the extent of the damages and losses that are recoverable. Your claim for compensation might involve a spouse and numerous children who all require compensation that might not be equally divided through a negotiated settlement or jury trial verdict.
An older spouse of the decedent might not receive as much compensation as a toddler or implement who will need years of financial support from a source other than their deceased parent. If the decedent was a young, married adult, their spouse will lose a lifetime of future earnings that their loved one would have generated had they not been killed by the negligent actions of another.
- The Strength of Witness Statements That Prove the Case – The jury will likely decide the value of the decedent's life based on their own prejudices and whether most jurors feel sympathy for the family and witnesses. Any rude or obnoxious behavior by a family member or witness giving testimony could create a serious roadblock in resolving the case for the plaintiff. Typically, jurors are more likely to award a larger verdict amount if they can relate to the plaintiff who appears to be likable and honest.
If jurors suspect that the plaintiff is attempting to get rich through a wrongful death suit, their award might be unexpectedly low or a verdict against the plaintiff in favor of the defendant. The strength of witness statements also affects how the claims adjuster or insurance company will settle the case before the lawsuit goes to trial.
- How the Jury Values Life – Early on in the case, the jurors will decide whether the decedent was a good or bad individual and if the plaintiffs had a close relationship with their loved one. Psychologically, it is far easier for a juror to award survivors a large verdict because they believe the decedent was a valuable person than if they saw the relationship with their survivors in a negative light.
- The Payout Limits of the Insurance Coverage Policy – While your case might be worth tens of millions of dollars, the amount you can expect to receive is likely tied closely to the limit of the insurance policy. As an example, if your attorney determines that your case is worth $2 million, but there is a limit of $1 million on the defendant's insurance policy, you have two options on how to proceed.
You can accept an offer by the defendants to settle the case for up to $1 million or, you can take the case to trial to see if the jury will award you a higher amount. If the jurors' verdict award you an amount greater than $1 million, the insurance company will cut you a check for the policy limit and you can seek to obtain the remaining funds from the defendant's assets.
However, the defendant can always declare bankruptcy, which would render the remaining amount of the verdict award or any subsequent court judgment worthless.
- Proving the Defendant Was at Fault – The jury might like the defendant and believe that the event that caused of death of your loved one was an unavoidable accident. The defendant's pretrial as a responsible individual might make it hard for the jurors to find them responsible and worthy of punishment. Alternatively, if the jury believes that the wrongdoer's actions were grossly negligent, like they were driving while drinking, or knew that they were selling a defective product, they may hold them responsible for compensatory damages and punitive damages to punish them for their egregious action.
- The Jurisdiction Where the Case Is Heard – Civil court cases, like a wrongful death lawsuit, are filled in county courthouses in the appropriate jurisdiction that might be in an urban environment or rural area. Your case may be tried in front of a very conservative jury who believes in the defendant's right to manufacture and sell their product without regulation or government interference, even if it is because of the death of your loved one. The judge hearing your case may have a “defense-oriented” reputation of pushing the case one way versus another every time, which could have catastrophic results for obtaining the monetary compensation you deserve.
- How Well the Jury Was Vetted – Every human being has certain biases, which is why juries are vetted before a civil trial has started. Both the defense and the plaintiff attorneys will be given ample time to ask the potential jurors questions to eliminate those who are obviously biased toward one side before they have heard any evidence. Your attorney will want to choose those that are sympathetic to your claim for compensation and will listen to the evidence before deciding that you are entitled to monetary recovery and how much based on the loss of your loved one.
- The Skill and Experience of Your Attorney – Wrongful death lawsuits can be extremely complicated. Because of that, your attorney will need to be highly experienced in resolving claims for compensation by filing a case based on proven Illinois civil tort law strategies. The lawyer must ensure that all the necessary paperwork is filed in the proper county courthouse before the statute of limitations expires.
The law firm will need to gather evidence, investigate the claim, speak to eyewitnesses, take depositions, and shared the discovery with defense attorneys. At some point, your lawyer will schedule negotiations to settle the case out of court by showing the claims adjuster or defendant's attorneys why their client is entitled to compensation in an amount that has been accurately calculated. Your attorney will seek certain compensation that includes:
- Medical bills associated with the event that caused the death of the plaintiff's loved one.
- Lost wages because the accident took away the decedent's ability to work up until their death.
- The decedent's loss of future earnings, because the defendant's actions took the life of the surviving family members' loved one.
- The financial necessity of the surviving spouse and children (based on each child's age) who relied on the decedent's services and care.
- Compensation to the loss of companionship, consortium, and future enjoyment of life that the decedent, spouse, and children would have shared.
- Funeral costs and burial expenses.
- Non-tangible damages including pain, grief, suffering, mental anguish, and emotional trauma in dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Will My Wrongful Death Settlement or Award Be Taxable?
According to the Internal Revenue Code 104(a)(2), the amount of financial compensation you receive by successfully resolving or winning a wrongful death lawsuit will likely not be taxed. The code states that:
“Gross income does not include: the amount of any damages (other than punitive damages) received “whether by suit or agreement and whether as lump sums or as periodic payments) on account of physical injuries or physical sickness.”
However, to be sure, it is important to speak with a tax attorney, tax accountant, or other professional before you file your income taxes for the year you receive your monetary recovery.
What Should I Do to Get Started Filing a Claim?
Our attorneys recommend that you read our five-step process to determine the approximate value of your car accident case. You can read it here: WHAT IS MY CAR ACCIDENT CASE WORTH?
If someone you know was killed in a car accident, there are some specific things to remember about the subsequent wrongful death lawsuit that might affect that analysis.
- In 2013, there were over 30,000 crashes that resulted in roughly the same number of deaths.
- There is roughly one death for every 10,000 car passengers/drivers.
- Illinois car fatalities numbers were slightly lower than the national average at a little over 7.5 deaths for every 100,000 passengers and drivers.
These numbers outline the broad borders of wrongful death cases with car accidents, but they do not describe the internal dynamics within them. To that point, more than any other car accident case type, wrongful death actions represent the largest source of non-economic damages.
Kinds of non-economic damages available normally include loss of services, loss of companionship, loss of support, and other injuries felt by those closest to the decedent.
These unique forms of damages make up for the fact that the victim is not around to make economic loss arguments. However, the size and scope of recovery available to relatives of decedents in car accidents are staggering, and the leeway given to plaintiffs' attorneys to argue for compensation for lost loved ones is extraordinary.
Therefore, when looking at our traditional approach to estimating the value of your car accident, you need to realize that non-economic damages will make up the bulk of recovery with wrongful death actions.
How Long Will it Take to Settle my Case?
Determining how long the case will take to settle is much like calculating its value based on a jury or claim adjuster's opinions. It is important to note that an experienced attorney will take the time to build a compelling case and present valid evidence in front of a claims adjuster to settle not only quickly, but for the amount that you are entitled to receive.
That said, most cases are resolved in court within two to four years if the lawsuit goes to trial, or may be shorter if both the defendant and plaintiffs agree to a negotiated settlement out of court.
Taking a wrongful death lawsuit to trial can be extremely challenging to family members and other survivors. Reliving the tragic event that claimed the life of a loved one to help ease the financial burden can produce intense stress levels. Turning the case over to a reputable law firm that specializes in challenging civil tort cases can make it easier on the survivors who will spend years grieving their loss.
Our Reputable Attorneys can Resolve Your Case
The Chicago wrongful death attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC understand that the death of your loved one was the fault of an individual or company whose actions were negligent.
We have successfully obtained millions on behalf of the victims and their family members to ensure they were adequately compensated to cover their medical expenses, household bills, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain, suffering, and emotional damage and we can help your family too.
Our legal team encourages you to contact our attorneys today to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation to discuss the merits of your monetary recovery claim.
We accept all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee arrangements. This legal contract postpones the payment of legal services until after we have successfully completed your case through a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict.
Our law firm gets results quickly because we understand you need money now. We proudly offer every client a “No Win/No-Fee” Guarantee, meaning if we are unable to secure financial compensation on your behalf you owe us nothing. All information you share with our law office will stay confidential.
To learn more about wrongful death lawsuits, look at our FAQ's here.