If you are thinking of bringing a wrongful death claim in Rhode Island against someone you suspect is responsible for the premature death of a loved one, you might be wondering how much you can claim in damages. A number of factors influence how much you can receive in financial compensation but first, let’s take a look at when a wrongful death suit is applicable.
When is a Wrongful Death Claim Applicable?
When Someone is Intentionally Killed
A good example is when OJ Simpson was accused of the wrongful death of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. He was found not guilty for the murder of his ex-wife and her friend but Ronald Goldman’s father brought a wrongful death lawsuit against him where he was ordered to pay compensatory and punitive damages.
When a Person Dies Due to Medical Malpractice
You can sue a doctor for failure to diagnose a condition or if they were careless in treating a condition and as a result, a loved one died.
Read more about suing for medical malpractice.
When Someone Dies in a Car Accident Involving Negligence
If a loved one dies in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you can bring a wrongful death claim against them.
These are just a few examples of situations where you can file for a wrongful death claim. You should speak to your wrongful death attorney to find out if your case is a wrongful death.
How Much is Your Wrongful Death Claim in Rhode Island?
This is perhaps the most difficult question because valuation is not really a legal question but a prediction of what a jury might decide to award to the survivors for the wrongful death of a loved one.
In short, there are no guidelines that define what amount any wrongful death suit should be worth. It’s not like other legal cases like divorce or child support where there are charts with guideline amounts.
So the big question is how do we determine what a wrongful death case is worth?
It’s not easy putting a dollar value on a person’s life but we generally consult with other wrongful death lawyers about settlement values in other similar cases. But that is just to give us a rough idea of what a jury, corporate defendant or insurance company can award.
We break down various categories of damages and employ the help of experts like economists to give us a rough estimate.
What are the Various Categories of Wrongful Death Damages?
Damages in wrongful death cases in Rhode Island are meant to compensate surviving family members and the estate for several types of losses. If you live in a different state, you should consult with your lawyer to find out which types of damages you are entitled to.
Damages that might be available in your case if you live in Rhode Island include:
Funeral and medical expenses when paid by a survivor.
Loss of care, guidance and companionship the victim provided to surviving family members.
For these types of damages, we can’t calculate them with precision. They are what we call “intangible” wrongful death damages. There are no guidelines that determine what the settlement amount should be but there are factors that will determine how much you might get.
For instance, the jury composition and your presence during trial might influence the jury to award or not to award you a high amount. We can’t predict how much you will get but we can come up with strategies that can tell your story effectively.
Property damaged during the events that led to the victim’s death.
Lost wages including future lost wages the victim was expected to earn had they lived.
In rare cases, you might be awarded punitive damages. These are damages intended to punish the defendant for their actions (or inactions). You must be able to prove the defendant’s gross recklessness and their complete disregard to human life and safety in order for the court to allow the jury to consider punitive damages.
If the court agrees that punitive damages are necessary, they will have to look at the defendant’s net worth and hit them where it hurts most. It’s the only way they can determine how much any dollar amount would hurt the defendant.
You should, however, know that as of this writing, punitive damages are not available in all Rhode Island wrongful death cases.
Mental pain and suffering
Just like guidance and companionship, it’s a little difficult to put a dollar value on mental pain and suffering. The jury will just hear your story and determine how much you will get. For instance, if you separated from your husband ten years ago and got into a romantic relationship with another man whom you currently live with, you might have a difficult time convincing the jury that you have significant pain and suffering from the wrongful death of your husband.
The way you and your wrongful death lawyer present your evidence can have a huge impact on how the jury decides.
What Other Factors Determine How Much Your Wrongful Death Case is Worth?
How much wealth or insurance coverage the defendant has is an important determining factor in your case. We simply cannot recover what doesn’t exist. So if the defendant doesn’t have an insurance policy or enough money that covers their actions we might be a little limited in how much we can recover. These are some of the things we first evaluate before deciding whether a lawsuit is a good idea in the first place.
Talk to a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Rhode Island
At the Kevin P Landry Rhode Island offices, we are fully staffed with experienced, discreet and professional wrongful death lawyers. We know this is a difficult time and you need someone who knows the laws and statutes in Rhode Island to help protect your rights.
We are willing to evaluate your case to determine how we can help you. We consider a number of factors to determine how much your case is worth such as: pain and suffering, loss of financial support, funeral and medical expenses, counseling expenses and loss of love and companionship.
To get in touch with one of our lawyers in Rhode Island, you can call (800) 200-7752 or visit any one of our offices for a free initial consultation. If you can’t make it to one of our offices, we can come to you.