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How Damages in Wrongful Death Cases Are Calculated

On Behalf of | Jul 18, 2017 | Damages, Wrongful Death


The loss of a loved one can be an extremely trying situation. Grieving and mourning can take a lot out of someone, so much so that seeking a legal action may be the last thing on one’s mind. Yet seeking the counsel of an experienced Polk County wrongful death attorney is essential for seeking justice and holding negligent parties accountable.

The attorneys at our practice would like to consider the issue of legal damages with regard to wrongful death cases. This will help you understand the legal process and the monetary compensation we will help you seek.

What Are Legal Damages?

Simply put, legal damages refer to monetary awards that are given to plaintiffs in civil cases. Damages are intended to cover injuries and losses associated with an incident. In a wrongful death case, damages typically cover various losses associated with an injury or an accident.

Types of Legal Damages

There are two kinds of legal damages, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

  • Compensatory Damages – Compensatory damages are intended to cover actual loss associated with an injury or an accident. This may include medical bills, funerary costs, property damage, lost wages, emotional pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.
  • Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are intended to punish the negligent party in a case. These kinds of damages go beyond actual losses and are meant to deter similar actions from being performed in the future.

Below, let’s offer some examples of damages in a wrongful death case.

An Example of Compensatory Damages

Let’s say that a person was killed in an auto accident. The collision was caused by a truck driver suffering from severe fatigue while behind the wheel; the truck driver did not sleep for 24 hours before the collision occurred.

In this auto accident example, compensatory damages would cover the funeral expenses, the cost of emergency medical care, the damage to the vehicle, and lost wages/earnings from the deceased. In addition, the family members of the deceased may also seek damages for the pain and suffering caused by their loved one’s death.

How Compensatory Damages Are Determined

Since compensatory damages are related to actual losses, the amount sought can be calculated by adding up any applicable charges related to the loss of a loved one. If you have any bills, receipts, or invoices for these expenses, they can be tabulated. Even expenses such as therapy bills or grief counseling can be considered as part of compensatory damages. As far as estimated wages from your loved one, old pay stubs or tax forms can be used to estimate lost wages.

An Example of Punitive Damages

Let’s use the above auto accident as our example for punitive damages.

Punitive damages will punish the truck driver and the truck driver’s company for their negligence that contributed to the collision occurring. If the trucking company has policies or hiring practices that make these kinds of accidents more likely, this gets figured into the punitive damages.

How Punitive Damages Are Determined

Calculating punitive damages can be challenging since there are no bills or invoices involved. Instead, the egregiousness of the accident will be considered. Similar auto accident cases may also be considered, using the punitive damages awarded in those lawsuits as a guideline for determining an amount to seek.

Learn More About Wrongful Death Lawsuits

For more information about your legal rights and options following the loss of a loved one, be sure to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney today. The lawyers at Saunders Law Group are here to help you.


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