How Much Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement?

How Much Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement
How Much Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement?

Suffering the loss of a loved one is devastating. When the negligent or wrongful actions of another causes that loss, it can intensify the heartbreak.

While no amount of money can ever replace a cherished family member, filing a wrongful death claim can provide some measure of justice and financial support during an incredibly difficult time.

If you lost a loved one due to someone else's negligence, you may wonder how much compensation you could receive in a wrongful death settlement. The answer depends on the specific details of your case.

However, understanding the factors that affect settlement amounts and the process of filing a claim can give you a general idea of what to expect. A Wisconsin wrongful death lawyer can review that with you.

Average Wrongful Death Settlements

Wrongful death settlements vary widely depending on the facts of the case. The largest settlements tend to involve high-income earners who leave behind dependent children and a spouse. Cases with strong evidence of negligence by the defendant and significant financial and emotional losses for the surviving family also tend to result in larger settlements. 

On the other end of the spectrum, cases with disputed liability, low economic losses, or contributory negligence by the deceased person often settle for smaller amounts.

An experienced wrongful death attorney can evaluate the strength of your case and estimate a reasonable settlement range to expect.

Factors That Impact Settlement Amounts

Many factors influence the value of a wrongful death case, including:

Economic Losses

Wrongful Death

The largest component of most wrongful death settlements is economic damages to cover the family's monetary losses, such as:

  • Medical bills related to the deceased person's final injury or illness
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of the deceased's expected lifetime earnings and benefits
  • Loss of an inheritance the deceased would have left to surviving family
  • The value of household services the deceased provided, like childcare

Non-Economic Losses

Settlements also include compensation for the intangible losses experienced by the surviving family, such as:

  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Loss of care, protection, guidance, advice, and nurturing from the deceased
  • Loss of love, society, and companionship
  • The age of the deceased. Settlement amounts tend to be higher for younger people, as their family experiences a greater loss of income and companionship over time.
  • The age and circumstances of dependents. Cases involving minor children who lose a parent often result in more substantial settlements.
  • The deceased's education, earning capacity, and benefits. Higher income and more extensive employment benefits lead to larger economic loss calculations.
  • Strength of evidence proving liability. Cases with clear evidence that the defendant's negligence caused the death tend to settle for higher amounts.
  • Insurance policy limits. Many wrongful death cases are limited by the amount of available insurance coverage. A large corporation or trucking company with extensive coverage will have a greater ability to pay a substantial settlement compared to an individual with a minimum auto policy.
  • Degree of negligence. Particularly egregious negligence, like drunk driving or intentional violence, can lead to higher settlement amounts.
  • Juries in the jurisdiction. The inclination of juries to award high verdicts in the area where the case would be filed impacts settlement negotiations. 

While these factors apply to most cases, the laws regarding wrongful death claims vary somewhat between states. Consult a local attorney who understands the specifics of the jurisdiction where you would file your case.

What Does Wrongful Death Mean?

From a legal standpoint, wrongful death refers to a situation where a person dies due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another person or entity. Essentially, it means the death would not have occurred but for the wrongful conduct of the defendant.

While the general concept of wrongful death is similar across states, the specific legal definition and requirements for bringing a claim can vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Each state has its own wrongful death statute that outlines the procedures and damages available in these cases.

However, most state laws include the following key elements in the definition of a wrongful death:

  • The negligence, default, or wrongful act of another person or entity caused the death. This can include intentional acts like violence, or unintentional but negligent acts like careless driving.
  • If the deceased person had survived, they could have filed a personal injury claim against the at-fault party.
  • The surviving family members suffered damages because of the death, such as lost income, lost inheritance, funeral expenses, and emotional distress.

Wrongful Death Laws in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota

At Nicolet Law, we have local offices to help people in four states. In Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North Dakota, eligible plaintiffs can file a wrongful death claim when the negligent, reckless, or intentional act of another person or entity causes a person's death.

Some common situations that lead to wrongful death claims include:

  • Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
  • Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Defective products
  • Dangerous premises conditions
  • Intentional violence 

While the basic definition of a wrongful death is similar, each state has its own laws that govern the procedural requirements and damages that can be claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Statutes of Limitations and Damages

In Minnesota, a trustee must be appointed to bring the claim on behalf of the surviving spouse and next of kin within three years of the date of death. The amount of damages is determined based on the losses suffered by the deceased person and their family members. Minnesota does not cap damages. 

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

In Wisconsin, a personal representative can file a claim within three years on behalf of the deceased person's lineal heirs or spouse. Minor children may also bring a claim for loss of society and companionship. Wisconsin limits damages to $350,000 for loss of society and companionship for an adult and $500,000 for a minor child. Wisconsin does not cap economic damages.

In Iowa, most wrongful death cases must be brought within two years by a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. The representative can recover damages in multiple categories for economic and non-economic damages. Additionally, in some circumstances in Iowa a personal representative can bring a claim for punitive damages in a wrongful death claim.

In North Dakota, the personal representative of the deceased person's estate must bring the claim within two years. The representative can recover damages on behalf of the surviving spouse, children, parents, and any heirs who were dependent on the deceased for support. North Dakota places a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages like pain and suffering. 

An attorney can evaluate your case based on the applicable state law and help you navigate the legal process.

The Process of Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

While the idea of taking legal action while grieving can feel overwhelming, filing a wrongful death claim can protect your family's future well-being. An experienced wrongful death attorney can handle the process on your behalf and work to secure the maximum available compensation.

The first step is choosing the right lawyer to represent you. Look for an attorney who has specific experience with wrongful death claims and understands the complexities of these cases. You should feel comfortable with your attorney and confident in their ability to advocate for you during this difficult time. 

Your lawyer will then conduct an in-depth investigation into the circumstances of your loved one's death to gather evidence and build a strong case for liability. This may include interviewing witnesses, reviewing medical records, consulting experts, and more. 

Many wrongful death cases can be resolved through settlement negotiations with the at-fault party's insurance company. Your attorney will handle these negotiations and work to reach the best possible settlement on your behalf.

If the other party refuses a fair settlement, your attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit and taking the case to trial. Throughout the process, your lawyer will provide guidance, support, and persistent advocacy to see your case through to a successful result.

While a legal case can never undo your loss, it can provide a sense of justice, accountability, and the financial resources your family needs to cope with the unexpected changes to your lives.

Contact Nicolet Law for Help Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent or wrongful actions of another, we at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers are here for you. We understand no amount of money can ever replace your cherished family member, but we can help you seek justice and secure the financial support you need to protect your family's future.

Our compassionate attorneys have extensive experience handling wrongful death claims in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. We will guide you through the legal process with sensitivity and persistence, fighting for the maximum compensation you deserve.

During this painful time, you should be able to focus on grieving and healing with your family. Let us handle the legal complexities and heavy lifting of your case.

Please reach out to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and learn how we can help. Call our main office at (715) 377-2141 or reach us 24/7 at 1-855-NICOLET. You can also contact us online at any time at any of our offices nearest to you.

Together, we can work to hold the at-fault party accountable and secure a measure of justice for your profound loss.