While it is always difficult to lose a family member, it is especially devastating when you need the financial support of the person who died or when the death was caused by the negligence of another party. If your family member recently died due to negligence, carelessness, incompetence, or failure to act, you may be entitled to financial compensation for wrongful death.
Even if cases where no one is criminally responsible for the death, you may still be able to hold someone civilly liable through a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is special type of personal injury claim brought forward by a surviving family member of someone who was killed.
Many wrongful death cases go to trial, but they don’t always go to court. In some cases, you may decide to accept a settlement. Typically, you have a choice between accepting the settlement and moving forward with the trial. When deciding if you should settle, you should keep the following elements in mind.
The Value of the Settlement
In a court case, the judge decides on the value of loss. With a settlement, the offer can be proposed by either the plaintiff or the defendant, and usually, these parties go back and forth until they agree on a sum. When you’re trying to decide whether or not you should settle, look closely at the amount of the settlement. Ideally, you want to ensure that the settlement will cover your current and future damages. For instance, you may need funds to pay your loved one’s final medical bills or funeral expenses, as well as money to cover the loss of their income.
It’s also important to remember that some wrongful death attorneys charge higher contingency fees if the case goes to trial. They may incur a lot of additional expenses through the trial that may be deducted from the final award. As a result, you may end up with less money after a trial, even if the award is greater than the settlement offer.
Length of Time for the Proceedings
Lawsuits can be long and emotional exhausting. They may drag on, and some defendants purposefully drag on the case to tire out the other side. After the loss of a loved one, you may not want to deal with a long, stressful trial. Instead, you may want to focus on grieving and healing. By setting out of court, you complete the process a lot faster. If the wrongful death settlement covers your expenses, you may want to give yourself a break by settling out of court. However, don’t give up on justice if the defendant is purposefully dragging the case out just so you’ll settle.
Possible Bad Publicity?
Usually, this issue only concerns the defendant, and if they are worried about the case reflecting poorly on their business or personal reputation, they may want to settle quickly. If you believe that the defendant is trying to settle for this reason, you may want to talk with your lawyer about negotiating a higher settlement. At the same time, you should think of any effects press around the case may have on you personally. You may prefer to stay out of the limelight.
The Strength of Your Case
Remember, a settlement is basically money in your pocket. When you agree to a settlement, the funds are guaranteed. In contrast, if you move forward toward a trial, you are not guaranteed to win. If you or your wrongful death attorney is worried about your case, you may want to accept the settlement. Don’t rule out going to trial though if you feel you have a strong case and more to gain by taking the risk.
Mediation or Arbitration?
Sometimes, there can be middle ground between accepting a settlement and going to court. In particular, you may want to talk with your lawyer about mediation or arbitration. With mediation, both parties meet and talk with a mediator, who offers their expertise and advice regarding how the case could be settled and how money should be awarded. Then, you, the defendant, and your attorneys decide if you want to agree to the mediator’s ideas.
In contrast, if you agree to arbitration, both parties meet and talk with an arbitrator who then makes a ruling based on his or her interpretation of the situation. Although both of these options can involved a few different costs, they tend to be less expensive than going through a trial.
If you have lost a loved you and you need help with a wrongful death case, contact us today. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we can offer you a free case evaluation and help you decide the best route forward with your case.