How Much Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?

By Peter DePaolis

Money might be far from your mind when you first receive the heartbreaking news that a loved one has passed away. As the days pass and you face mounting medical bills, funeral home fees and lost wages, however, you may come to recognize the importance of pursuing a wrongful death claim for your family’s future.

The idea of holding the party at fault for your loved one’s death legally accountable could also draw you to bring a Fairfax wrongful death lawsuit. Either way, one of your initial questions will likely be, “How much is my case worth?” Every case is unique, and no one answer fits all, but you can learn more about how an attorney might evaluate your case for a better idea of what to expect.

If you’ve reached our page in search of answers to your specific legal questions, contact our office today.

Average Wrongful Death Settlement in Virginia

Wrongful death is the most tragic possible outcome of a person’s negligence or wanton disregard for the safety of others. While no amount of money could possibly make up for the loss of a family member, Virginia’s civil courts hope to at least ease the financial burden that may fall on surviving family members after an unexpected death by enabling the representative of the estate to seek damages from the at-fault party. As a claimant, you will quickly realize, however, that an ‘average’ settlement amount does not exist.

Settlement awards for successful wrongful death claims have ranged from $1,000 or less to tens of millions of dollars. The payout your family could receive for a wrongful death depends on unique factors such as your loved one’s age, income, education level, medical expenses, funeral costs, state of health, the circumstances of dependents and value of lost benefits. It takes a consultation with an attorney to find out more about what your specific case could be worth. Only a lawyer can give you an accurate estimate of its value, supported by evidence.

Compensable Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

For a rough idea of what your case might be worth, however, you could calculate all the damages a judge or jury might award you should your wrongful death lawsuit succeed. A settlement or judgment award aims to reimburse the plaintiff for all the economic and noneconomic damages he or she suffered due to the defendant’s actions.

First, add up your economic damages, as these will have specific numbers.

  • Unpaid medical bills from the accident or illness that ultimately killed your loved one
  • The decedent’s missed wages and lost future earnings
  • Value of lost benefits (pension, etc.)
  • Lost inheritance
  • Reasonable funeral and burial costs
  • Legal fees to bring a wrongful death claim

Add up what these expenses have so far and will continue to cost your family. Then, consider what you may be eligible to receive in noneconomic damages. These can include your personal mental anguish, the decedent’s pain and suffering before death, and loss of consortium. Finally, you could receive an additional punitive award from a judge if the defendant’s actions were particularly wanton or reckless.

Does Virginia Have Damage Caps?

Virginia has two damage caps that may apply to your wrongful death case. A damage cap places a maximum limit on how much a plaintiff may receive for a specific type of loss. The first damage cap only applies to medical malpractice cases. If medical malpractice killed your loved one, your family may not receive more than $2.4 million in total damages as of July 1st, 2019. This amount will continue to increase due to inflation year by year until 2031 but will not exceed $3 million.

The second cap is on punitive damages. No plaintiff may receive over $350,000 in punitive damages in any type of civil case, including wrongful death. The best way to maximize your settlement for a loved one’s death is to hire an experienced attorney in Virginia. A wrongful death lawyer could help you calculate the fair value of your case and demand proper compensation from the at-fault parties on your behalf.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.