When someone dies as a result of someone else’s negligence, such as in a car accident, the family of the deceased can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of lawsuit allows the family to recover a wrongful death settlement for the physical and emotional trauma they have to endure.
The decision to bring a wrongful death lawsuit is never easy, because doing so means that a loved one has died. Nevertheless, wrongful death settlements can offer peace of mind during a difficult time. But how much is a wrongful death lawsuit worth, and how can you calculate a potential settlement amount?
What Is a “Wrongful Death?”
Under KRS 411.130, a wrongful death occurs when someone dies “from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another.” In general, a lawsuit or claim (settlement without the filing of a lawsuit) must be filed or settled by the person who suffers the injury. In a wrongful death lawsuit, however, Kentucky law grants the family of the deceased person the right to sue.
Note that to succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit in Kentucky, the deceased must have died as a result of the negligence or other wrongful action of another. Even after an accident where the fault seems obvious, proving a negligence claim can be complex. Accordingly, consulting a personal injury attorney about your potential wrongful death lawsuit is crucial.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kentucky?
In general, the personal representative appointed for the deceased will be the spouse or grown children of the deceased, the spouse having priority for the appointment. In rare cases a will may determine the appointment of the representative if an executor or executrix has been appointed in the will. This will provide a preference for the court in appointment but can be overruled by circumstances.
What Damages Are Available in Wrongful Death Settlements?
Damages in a wrongful death settlement are very similar to those in a personal injury lawsuit. Typical damages include:
- Medical expenses for the injury that lead to the person’s death;
- Lost future income;
- Loss of household services;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of consortium or loss of companionship; and
- Administrative expenses related to the estate and funeral.
Because every situation is different, keep in mind that the exact damages available may differ from case to case.
What Is Loss of Consortium or Loss of Companionship?
When someone dies, their family will no longer have their love, support, companionship, and care. Loss of consortium and loss of companionship are types of damages intended to compensate for the loss of family members’ relationships with the deceased person.
Loss of consortium applies between spouses. When a husband or wife loses their spouse, they also lose the “services, assistance, aid, society, companionship and conjugal relationship” they had with that spouse. Damages for loss of consortium compensate for this loss.
Loss of companionship, on the other hand, applies to the parent-child relationship. KRS 411.135 allows parents to recover damages for the “loss of affection and companionship” that would have come from raising their child.
*A minor child may file through a guardian a claim for loss of a parent in a wrongful death claim.
How to Calculate a Wrongful Death Settlement
As explained above, the exact nature of the damages available in a particular case may vary. There is no universal wrongful death settlement calculator, and as a result, it can be difficult to calculate a wrongful death lawsuit settlement average.
There are, however, several factors that you can consider. Estimating the approximate “value” of each factor will give you an idea of how much your wrongful death lawsuit may be worth. The factors that influence a wrongful death settlement include:
- The age of the deceased when they died;
- Their health at the time of death;
- Their career path, education, income, and future earning capacity;
- Whether they left behind any minor children or other dependents;
- Income earned and tax returns for the deceased used by the economist obtained by your attorney to determine future loss of income;
- The total cost of any medical expenses from treating the deceased before they died; and
- The value of any benefits like insurance or a pension owed to the deceased.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it can help you calculate a potential settlement value.
For factors like the age and health of the deceased, adjust your calculation down if they were older or had health problems. If the deceased was young and healthy, then you may adjust the calculation upward.
If you have more questions about how much your wrongful death settlements might be worth, Flora Templeton Stuart Accident Injury Lawyers is here to help.
We’ve recovered millions of dollars in settlements for our clients during our 45 years in practice.
Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable?
The IRS considers all “compensatory” damages to be non-taxable. Compensatory damages include those paid to you as compensation for your loss or injury.
That is in contrast to punitive damages, which are intended to punish the defendant (rather than compensate the victim or victims).
If you receive a wrongful death settlement, a personal injury attorney can help you determine what portion is taxable.
Administrator or executrix fees are taxable.
Speak with a Kentucky Wrongful Death Attorney
As mentioned above, calculating wrongful death settlements depends on the facts of each case.
Flora Templeton Stuart Accident Injury Lawyers can help you assess your case and determine the best strategy for you.
We know how tough it is to lose a loved one, so we make it our top priority to provide personalized and compassionate service to all our clients.
Contact us today online or by phone to schedule a free initial consultation.