When pursuing a wrongful death claim, it's important to understand the many factors that could affect any potential settlement you may receive. By acknowledging these factors and the impact they can have on your claim, you and your attorney can work towards improving the ultimate outcome of your case and successfully recover related damages and losses.
The Number of Claimants Involved
Many wrongful death cases don't involve just one claimant. If the deceased has a surviving spouse, children, and other dependents, then the amount of recoverable damages and losses may increase due to each person having their own individual claims for the loss of the deceased.
The Defendant's Insurance Coverage
In most cases, the amount of money that can be reliably collected as part of a judgment is usually limited to the amount of insurance coverage carried by the defendant. For example, if the defendant has an insurance policy with a $100,000 limit and the jury delivers a judgment of $250,000 against the defendant, then only that $100,000 can be reliably collected. Meanwhile, the remaining $150,000 must be collected by going after the defendant's personal assets - a process that could take several years and additional attorney fees to pursue.
The Jury's Perception of the Deceased and Claimants
Although juries are supposed to be impartial, each juror may still have his or her own biases and prejudices that could affect the value of your judgment. Jury perception can be an important factor in the outcome of a wrongful death case. If the jury sees the deceased and survivors as people they can relate to and hold in high esteem, those factors can increase the likelihood of the jury awarding a higher verdict. On the other hand, claimants whom the jury sees as unlikeable, untrustworthy or purely in search of monetary gain rather than justice may drive to jury to find in favor of the defendant, instead.
Keep in mind that jury perception also works both ways. If the defendant is a person or entity that is seen in a mostly negative light, then such perception could play to your advantage.
Case Venue and Jurisdiction
The value of yourwrongful death judgment could depend on where your claim is heard. Claims heard in a rural county by a jury composed of rural residents may be judged differently compared to urban or suburban juries in heavily populated counties. The amount of time it takes to fully evaluate a case and render judgment can also vary, which could prompt you or your loved ones to consider settlement instead of a jury verdict.