Skip to Main Content


How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Calculated

Home » Blog » How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Calculated
Calculating wrongful death settlements

Navigating the heartbreaking journey after losing a loved one unexpectedly involves understanding how wrongful death settlements are calculated. These calculations don’t follow a standard formula; they account for varied factors like the deceased’s earnings and the family’s loss. Houston’s wrongful death attorney  Greg Baumgartner, aims to discreetly break down the process and provide an accessible yet thorough overview of what goes into a settlement’s sum without overwhelming legal complexity.

Key Takeaways

  • Wrongful death settlements are determined based on economic, non-economic, and punitive damages, considering factors such as loss of income and the emotional impact on surviving dependents, with no standard formula for calculation.
  • Several factors influence the compensation amount in wrongful death cases, including liability factors, the deceased’s age, earning history, lost parental guidance, loss of companionship, and the defendant’s financial resources or insurance coverage.
  • Wrongful death settlements are distributed among immediate family members, such as spouses, children, or parents, in general, based upon the closeness of the relationship, and contributory negligence of the deceased can reduce the settlement amount. If the deceased did not die immediately, the estate would have a claim for the decedent’s personal injury damages before death *a survival claim.

Read More: What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action?

Deciphering the Calculation of Wrongful Death Settlements

Navigating the landscape of a wrongful death lawsuit can be challenging and fraught with unknowns. One of the most daunting aspects is understanding how wrongful death settlements are calculated. These settlements are primarily determined by three components: economic damages, non-economic damages, and in rare cases punitive damages. There is no specific formula for calculating these settlements in Texas since each case is unique and hinges on various intricate factors.

The value of wrongful death settlements takes into account factors such as loss of income, pain, and suffering, the age of surviving dependents, and the role of the deceased in supporting their dependents. Surviving family members under Texas law are entitled to claim compensation for economic damages, which cover financial expenses, and non-economic damages, which account for the emotional and physical toll experienced.

In our Houston wrongful death attorney’s experience, the largest damage elements considered in a settlement are liability factors and human damages to the remaining family members.

Economic Wrongful Death Damages in Texas

Economic Damages in a wrongful death case refer to the financial losses from the incident. These damages encompass different categories, such as:

  • The medical expenses incurred by the victim before their death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Wages lost during any hospital stay
  • Estimating the potential lifetime earnings of the deceased and what would have been contributed to the support of the family
  • Loss of inheritance.

Calculations for economic damages also consider the following:

  • The medical expenses incurred by the victim before their death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Wages lost during any hospital stay
  • Estimating the potential lifetime earnings of the deceased and what would have been contributed to the support of the family

Determining fair compensation involves assessing all of these factors and is essential for a comprehensive evaluation.

Non-Economic Damages Assessment

While economic damages cover tangible financial losses, non-economic damages compensate for non-financial losses such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress. These damages reflect the intangible losses that are not easily quantified but significantly impact the lives of the surviving loved ones.

These intangible losses can include:

  • Pecuniary loss- which means the loss of care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, and reasonable contributions of a pecuniary value.
  • Loss of companionship and society.
  • Loss of consortium
  • Mental anguish

When a child loses a parent due to wrongful death, the loss of parental training and guidance is recognized as non-economic damage.

The Role of Punitive Damages

Punitive damages serve a unique role in wrongful death cases. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, which aim to compensate the victim’s family, punitive damages are designed as a form of punishment for the at-fault party to deter similar conduct.

These damages are not awarded in every case. They are typically reserved for instances where the conduct that caused the death was particularly egregious, such as actions that manifest extreme recklessness or intentional harm. A good example of reckless conduct where punitive damages may be appropriate is getting hit by a drunk driver.

Factors Influencing Wrongful Death Compensation

Several factors can influence the compensation awarded in a wrongful death case. These factors encompass:

  • The age of the deceased
  • Their previous earnings
  • The impact of lost parental guidance
  • Loss of companionship
  • Proof of a close relationship with a family member
  • The defendant’s financial resources or insurance coverage

For instance, a younger individual’s death may result in a higher settlement due to the anticipated longer working life and potential future earnings lost. The deceased’s previous earnings significantly influence wrongful death compensation by considering the loss of potential income to the family.

Likewise, the closeness of the relationship is a big damage factor in most cases. If a parent of an adult child had not seen or talked with the child in a long time, the damage calculation would be much less than a parent in close contact with their child.

Moreover, the defendant’s financial resources, such as insurance coverage limits, significantly determine the feasible settlement amount in wrongful death cases.

Understanding Who Receives the Death Settlements

The distribution of wrongful death settlements is a critical part of the process. Settlements in Texas are distributed only to these beneficiaries– the surviving spouse, children, or parents and do not extend to other relatives such as:

  • siblings
  • aunts
  • uncles
  • grandparents
  • others

The distribution of the settlement depends on the deceased’s family situation. Here is how the settlement is awarded:

  • If the deceased person was married but had no children or surviving parents, the entire wrongful death settlement is awarded to the surviving spouse.
  • In cases where the deceased had children but no spouse, the wrongful death settlement is awarded to the children. A jury can determine the award amount to each child, or the family can agree to a distribution in a settlement.
  • If surviving parents exist but the deceased had no spouse or children, the parents would have a claim.

The Impact of Contributory Negligence on Settlements

Contributory negligence is a legal concept that can significantly impact wrongful death settlements. This concept refers to situations where the deceased had some degree of responsibility in the incident leading to their death.

The occurrence of contributory negligence or partial fault on the part of the deceased who contributed to the incident could lead to a reduction in the settlement amount received in a wrongful death case. This is an important factor, as it can significantly affect the compensation awarded to the surviving family members.

The Legal Process: From Claim to Compensation

The legal process for a wrongful death claim can be complex and lengthy. It typically begins with hiring a knowledgeable lawyer who will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death to establish facts and identify liable parties in a wrongful death action.

The lawyer’s role extends beyond just filing the claim. They are also responsible for:

  • Proving negligent actions
  • Calculating and recovering compensation
  • Negotiating settlements
  • Preparing robust legal strategies

If settlement negotiations do not yield a fair settlement, the case may go to trial, where a judge or jury will issue a verdict and determine the compensation awarded.

Read More: What Are My Chances of Winning a Wrongful Death Suit

Wrongful Death Settlements and Tax Implications

Their tax implications are often overlooked when considering wrongful death settlements. Most wrongful death settlement payments are non-taxable if they are compensatory for the losses of the surviving family members.

Taxable portions of a wrongful death settlement may include the interest portion and punitive damages. Consult a tax attorney with specific questions.

Payment Methods for Wrongful Death Settlements

Wrongful death settlements can be paid out in two ways: as a lump sum or a structured settlement. Each option has advantages and disadvantages, and the choice largely depends on the recipients’ financial circumstances and needs.

Structured settlements offer a stream of income over a period, which may also carry tax benefits for the recipients. On the other hand, lump sum payments may be more suitable when there are immediate expenses, such as outstanding medical bills or other costs related to the wrongful death.

Regardless of the payment modality, the wrongful death settlement is usually issued by insurance companies in the form of a check sent to the claimant or their attorney. An experienced wrongful death attorney is crucial in determining the most advantageous settlement type and overseeing the transaction process.

When to Engage an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer

Engaging wrongful death lawyers, especially an experienced wrongful death lawyer, is crucial for navigating the complex terrain of wrongful death lawsuits. It is advisable to engage a lawyer immediately in cases of sudden deaths, such as car accidents or medical malpractice, to ensure evidence is preserved and rights are protected from the outset.

An experienced wrongful death lawyer’s role includes:

  • Proving negligent actions
  • Calculating and recovering compensation
  • Negotiating settlements
  • Preparing robust legal strategies

Their expertise is essential for confidently navigating complex legal procedures, meeting critical deadlines, and negotiating assertively with insurance companies to ensure fair compensation.

Their engagement in pursuing justice and fair compensation is an invaluable asset from the initial consultation to the case resolution.

Contact an Expert Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer for Help

Understanding wrongful death settlements can be overwhelming due to their complexity and the emotional toll they take on the surviving family members. However, one can navigate this process effectively with the right knowledge and the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer. Baumgartner Law Firm has helped families after the loss of a loved one since 1985 and won millions for them.

Contact Baumgartner Law Firm for a free consultation by calling (281) 587-1111.

Baumgartner Law Firm

6711 Cypress Creek Pkwy, Houston, TX, 77069

(281) 587-1111

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main components in determining damages for wrongful death cases?

The main components in determining damages for wrongful death cases are economic, non-economic, and, in some cases, punitive damages. Each category serves to compensate for different aspects of the loss.

Who are the typical recipients of wrongful death settlements?

Wrongful death settlements are typically distributed to the surviving spouse, children, or parents. It is important to consult with a legal professional for specific advice.

What is contributory negligence, and how does it impact wrongful death settlements?

Contributory negligence refers to the deceased having some responsibility for the incident leading to their death, which can reduce the settlement amount. It’s important to consider this factor in wrongful death cases.

What are the tax implications of wrongful death settlements?

Wrongful death settlement payments are generally non-taxable. However, exceptions include the interest portion punitive damages.

When should one engage an experienced wrongful death lawyer?

You should engage an experienced wrongful death lawyer immediately in cases of sudden death to preserve evidence and protect your rights.

How to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas

How Long Do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Take?