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Wrongful Death Settlements vs. Trials: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Losing a loved one is never easy, but knowing that their death could have been avoided makes it all the harder. However, there are ways of holding accountable those whose negligence or wrongful action created this tragedy. Kiesel Law has helped countless individuals seek justice by filing wrongful death claims.

In addition to relieving the financial burdens associated with losing a loved one, wrongful death claims help many of our clients find a sense of closure. Sometimes, the defendant in a wrongful death suit will offer a settlement to avoid going to trial, and it can be tempting to accept the offer just to experience closure sooner. That’s not always in your best interest, though.

How do you know when and when not to accept an out-of-court settlement? What are the advantages and disadvantages of taking a wrongful death claim to trial? Kiesel Law can help you fully understand your options. Below, we’ll explore the intricacies of the “settlement vs. trial” dilemma. Want to learn more? Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Taking a Wrongful Death Claim to Trial

Wrongful death trials are sometimes long and often complicated, but they also provide numerous opportunities that many plaintiffs find worthwhile. During a wrongful death trial, your claim could be decided by either a judge or jury, which makes their outcome hard to predict.

Close-up of a judge’s gavel in the courtroom

Wrongful Death Trial Pros

  • Potentially Higher Compensation: One of the significant advantages of going to trial is the possibility of receiving higher compensation. Juries can award substantial sums, including economic damages (e.g., medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income) and non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering, loss of companionship).
  • Seeking Accountability: Trials provide an opportunity to hold the responsible party accountable publicly. This can help ensure that negligent individuals or entities are held responsible for their actions and discourage future negligence.
  • Clarification of Legal Rights: Trials clarify the legal rights of the parties involved and establish legal precedents that can benefit others in similar situations.

Wrongful Death Trial Cons

  • Uncertainty: Trials can be unpredictable, and there is no guarantee of a favorable outcome. If the jury does not rule in your favor, you may receive no compensation.
  • Time-Consuming: Trials can be lengthy processes, often taking years to reach a resolution. This can prolong the emotional and financial strain on surviving family members.
  • Legal Costs: Pursuing a trial can be expensive due to legal fees, court costs, expert witness fees, and other expenses. Even if successful, legal costs may reduce the final compensation.
  • Emotional Toll: Trials can be emotionally draining for all parties involved, as they require reliving the traumatic events and enduring cross-examination.

Settling a Wrongful Death Claim

To avoid a potentially long, expensive, and publically damaging trial, the defendant in a wrongful death claim may offer an out-of-court settlement. Wrongful death settlements forgo the trial process in favor of providing the plaintiff with mutually agreed-upon compensation.

A lawyer discussing a wrongful death settlement with his client

Wrongful Death Settlement Pros

  • Certainty and Speed: Settlements offer a faster and more predictable resolution compared to trials. This can provide emotional closure and financial relief sooner.
  • Guaranteed Compensation: When you accept a settlement, you know exactly how much compensation you will receive, avoiding the uncertainty of a jury verdict.
  • Reduced Costs: Settling a case often results in lower legal costs, as it avoids the expenses associated with lengthy trials.
  • Privacy: Settlements are typically confidential, protecting the family’s privacy and sparing them from the public scrutiny that often accompanies trials.

Wrongful Death Settlement Cons

  • Potentially Lower Compensation: Settlement offers may be lower than what a jury could award at trial. Insurance companies or defendants may aim to minimize their financial liability.
  • Foregoing Accountability: Accepting a settlement means foregoing the opportunity to publicly hold the negligent party accountable, potentially missing out on the deterrence factor.
  • Limited Legal Recourse: Once a settlement is accepted, you typically cannot reopen the case or seek additional compensation, even if unforeseen expenses arise.
  • Negotiation Challenges: Negotiating a fair settlement can be complex, requiring the guidance of experienced attorneys to ensure that all losses are adequately compensated.

Settlement vs. Trial: What Factors to Consider

When deciding whether to take a wrongful death lawsuit to trial or accept a settlement, it’s important not just to consider the pros and cons, but to also examine other factors that could affect the outcome of your claim. Here are a few important facts you should keep in mind:

  • Strength of Evidence: Assess the strength of your case and the likelihood of success at trial. Strong evidence may encourage you to pursue a trial, while weak evidence may lean you toward settlement.
  • Emotional Impact: Consider the emotional toll of a trial on your family. Some may prefer the closure that a settlement offers over the emotional strain of a court proceeding.
  • Financial Needs: Evaluate your immediate and future financial needs. If your family is struggling financially, a settlement may provide much-needed relief more quickly.
  • Accountability: Consider whether public accountability is important to you. If you believe that the negligent party needs to be held publicly responsible for their actions, a trial may be more appealing.
  • Legal Advice: Consult with experienced attorneys who specialize in wrongful death cases. The lawyers at Kiesel Law can provide valuable insights and help you make an informed decision.

Make the Right Decision. Choose Kiesel Law

Choosing whether or not to accept a wrongful death settlement is a deeply personal and complex decision. Only you can know for sure what is best for you, both financially and emotionally.

That doesn’t mean it’s a decision you have to make on your own, however. Here at Kiesel Law, we have decades of experience trying and settling wrongful death claims.  Let us put that experience to work for you. Contact us today.