Losing a loved one suddenly is devastating, and something you feel could never be replaced by money. However, the laws of Kentucky do allow family members to seek compensation when a loved one dies because of someone’s wrongdoing, reckless behavior, or negligence.
These laws are known as wrongful death laws, and they are designed to ensure that family members are not left without when their loved one dies. If you have lost a loved one and you are considering a lawsuit, several factors play a role in determining the value of your wrongful death claim. More importantly, you should consult with an attorney to see if your case qualifies, because Kentucky has laws specific to wrongful death claims – and not all deaths qualify.
Understanding How Wrongful Death Claims Work in Louisville
Under Kentucky laws, a wrongful death lawsuit is one brought by the deceased’s estate, which represents the surviving family members of the deceased. The lawsuit is brought after the death caused by intentional homicide, reckless behavior, accident, injury, malpractice, or another form of negligence by another party, who is named the defendant.
Wrongful death claims are civil actions; not criminal. However, you may have a wrongful death claim while a criminal case is active. The outcome of the criminal case may be helpful in your case, especially if the defendant is found guilty. However, you can still file for compensation even if the defendant is not found guilty.
This is because criminal cases use a different requirement for proving guilt than civil cases. In a civil case, you must prove that the defendant was the cause of death with the preponderance of evidence. In a criminal case, the jury must feel the defendant caused the death beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, jurors could still doubt guilt or innocence in a civil case, but the plaintiff has provided more evidence proving the defendant was liable than not. In a criminal case, any amount of doubt means that the jury can find the defendant innocent.
The Amount of Recovery in a Wrongful Death Case
It is very difficult for an attorney, insurance company, and even a jury to put a dollar value on a human life. That is why the statute uses a balance of factors to help determine that value. Some factors used include the victim’s age, overall health, life expectancy, current career, future earning capacity, and their family.
Also, settlement value can depend on the type of accident or injury that caused the victim’s death. For example, a victim that dies in a drunken driving accident versus a victim that dies in a slip and fall on an icy sidewalk. Furthermore, the severity of the injuries that caused the victim’s death play a role. A more catastrophic accident with multiple surgeries and hospitalizations before the victim’s death would have higher medical costs for the estate than an accident that leads to immediate death.
Compensation that Loved Ones Might Receive
- Medical Costs – Medical costs from the time of the accident up until the victim’s death may be compensated. This includes hospitalizations, in-home nursing care, medical equipment, doctor’s fees, and ambulance transportations.
- Funeral and Burial Costs – These are reimbursed in full up to a reasonable value.
- Lost Income – Wages the victim would have earned while trying to recover from their injuries and future wages the victim would have earned had they not been injured.
- Pain and Suffering – The victim’s pain and suffering before death is also considered.
- Family’s Losses – Families do not just lose financial support. They also lose companionship, love, care, and comfort. Therefore, the courts do allow loved ones to seek compensation, especially for minor children and spouses who lose a spouse or parent.
Factors that Affect Your Wrongful Death Case Compensation
- Number of claimants and the value of damages. The value of the case often hinges on how many claimants are listed and the amount of damages recoverable in the case. For example, a surviving spouse with minor children may receive higher compensation than parents of an adult child that dies without any surviving children to support.
- Sympathy from the jury. A jury’s sympathy toward loved ones who testify in a wrongful death case, unfortunately, does play a role in the amount awarded. When jurors dislike family members, they may be less inclined to leave a high settlement.
- The life value of the deceased. The life value of the deceased includes their earnings and future earnings, life expectancy, and the person as a whole. Were they liked? Were they a charitable, good person or were they someone disliked by most people in the community? Sadly, these factors do play a role in how much compensation a jury might give family members.
- How much insurance policies cover. Even if you are setting out of court, the amount of insurance coverage the defendant has will play a role. For example, if you seek $500,000 in damages, but insurance covers $250,000, does the defendant even have the assets or ability to pay the remaining balance? If not, you may have to settle for what insurance can pay.
- Past cases in the same jurisdiction. Insurance claims adjusters consider past cases in the same jurisdiction with similar injuries or wrongful death causes. They use these values to determine how much a jury might award if the case goes to trial and how much to offer during negotiations.
Hire an Attorney in Louisville Now
No amount of money will bring back a loved one, but you can hold negligent parties accountable for their actions and ensure this tragedy does not happen to another family.
To get started a wrongful death claim, contact the Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC. Attorney Seth Gladstein is here to help you with your case. He has helped countless clients in the state of Kentucky seek compensation for the loss of a loved one, and he can help you too.
Schedule your free consultation now at 502-791-9000 or request more information online.