A wrongful death attorney can charge anywhere from 33% to 40% of a client’s total settlement.
Lawyers who take wrongful death cases work on a contingency fee basis and only get paid if you win.
Defining Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death lawsuits are legal claims that can be taken when a person dies as a result of someone else’s negligent, reckless or intentionally violent actions.
Knowing Who Can File
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit depends on the state. For example, in Florida, the decedent’s personal representative must file on behalf of the surviving family members. Other states allow immediate surviving family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
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Value of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settlement
Of course, the settlement of any wrongful death lawsuit depends on the circumstances. However, on average, a settlement may be worth anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million.
What Types of Fees Are Typically Involved in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Typically, there are different fees involved in a wrongful death lawsuit. They include contingency fees, flat fees, hourly rates, upfront costs and retainers, expert witness and deposition fees and court filing fees and other expenses.
What Is the Contingency Fee Basis?
Wrongful death attorneys, like personal injury attorneys, work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they only get paid if your wrongful death lawsuit is successful.
Contingency Fees and Percentage of a Settlement
In a successful wrongful death claim, the attorney can get 33% to 40% of the settlement.
What Are Flat Fees?
Flat fees are typically 33 1/3% of any sum a plaintiff recovers.
Attorneys’ Hourly Rates
A wrongful death attorney’s hourly rates may vary but typically range between $250 to $500 per hour.
What Are Upfront Costs and Retainers?
Upfront costs and retainers refer to fees paid to an attorney to provide their services for a client. The amount of money for this can vary.
Understanding Expert Witness and Deposition Fees
Depending on the complexity of a wrongful death case, expert witnesses might be called in to testify on behalf of the surviving family members. Expert witnesses require fees that can range anywhere from around $245 per hour for a non-medical expert to $500 per hour for a medical expert.
Deposition fees are also necessary when expert witnesses appear. On average, the rate is around $448 per hour.
How Much Are Court Filing Fees and Other Expenses?
Typically, court filing fees cost a few hundred dollars. There may be other myriad expenses that range in cost as well.
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What Factors Affect Representation Cost in Wrongful Death?
Various factors can affect the cost of representation in a wrongful death case. They are the complexity of the case, settlement amount, court costs, severity of the injuries and losses sustained by the family, amount and type of evidence available to support the claim, number and nature of the parties involved and the location and reputation of the attorney or firm hired to represent the claimant.
How Case Complexity Affects Representation
Wrongful death cases that are very complex may require added costs to the attorney representing the case. This is usually when the facts are not 100% clear and experts need to be called in to testify to prove what happened to the victim.
Settlement Amount and Representation
The settlement amount dictates how much a wrongful death attorney receives for representation. Settlements ranging from $1 million to $2 million can result in a 33% contingency fee for representation. Meanwhile, those that result in $2 million of more result in a 20% fee for legal representation.
Court Costs and Representation
Court costs are usually standard in wrongful death actions. However, depending on the complexity of the case, there may be slightly higher fees involved.
How Severity of Injuries and Losses Suffered By the Family Affect Representation
The severity of the victim’s injuries prior to their death and the losses the surviving family members experience are also factors that can affect representation. If the decedent’s injuries were particularly severe and it took a long period of time before they ultimately passed away, it usually means their medical expenses were higher. This also adds to the losses sustained by the family. It could result in a higher settlement award for the survivors, which would mean the attorney representing their wrongful death case would recover more as well.
Amount of Evidence and Type of Evidence to Support the Claim
Having more evidence, and the right type of it, is always more favorable for supporting a wrongful death claim. This might include medical records, expert witness testimony, lost wages and lost earning capacity and various forms of proof from the surviving family detailing their losses as a result of the death of their loved one. With ample evidence, an attorney doesn’t need to dig as deeply, making things easier, including financially, for the case and the clients.
How the Number and Nature of Parties Involved Affects Representation
A single party involved in a wrongful death situation can make the case easier. However, things can be more complex if a government entity is the defendant in such a case. Things can also be more challenging if multiple parties are involved in the victim’s death. These situations may affect the way the attorney handles the case and how much they charge for representation.
How Location and Representation of the Attorney or Firm Impacts Representation
Attorneys and law firms from bigger cities and ritzier locations generally charge more for representation. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they might better represent clients in their wrongful death cases. It’s also wise to hire a lawyer or firm closer to home so that it’s easier to meet whenever necessary.
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What Is the Role of a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
A wrongful death attorney’s role is to expertly represent the surviving family members to prove their loved one’s death was directly due to the negligence or actions of the defendant. They can present evidence and testimony that shows that the family has suffered financial losses as well as those that cannot be attributed to a price tag.
How to Estimate the Cost of Representation in a Wrongful Death Case
All of the above factors can determine how much it might cost an attorney to represent you in a wrongful death case. How much your case might be worth in terms of a settlement, whether it’s settled out of court, the need for expert witness testimony and your evidence all factor into the cost of representation.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
There are numerous benefits to having a wrongful death lawyer if you need to file a wrongful death claim. They include legal expertise, investigative skills, case valuation experience, negotiation skills, court representation, emotional support, reduced stress, statute of limitations, access to resources, maximized compensation, experience handling insurers and objectivity.
You Get Legal Expertise
Wrongful death lawyers can provide you with the legal expertise you need to get the best chance of success in your case.
They Come with Investigative Skills
Your attorney has, at their disposal, experts who can investigate the evidence when necessary. If any of the facts of your wrongful death case are unclear, they can have an investigative team look into it or do so on their own.
They Have Case Valuation Experience
Your wrongful death attorney can give you an idea of what to expect with your settlement if your case is successful. The more information they have, the better an estimate they can provide you about the compensation you might recover.
They Know How to Negotiate
Negotiation skills are an invaluable trait in any lawyer handling a wrongful death case. The defendant and their attorney might object to the amount of money you’re seeking in compensation. However, your lawyer has the skills needed to ensure that you get the best, fairest amount of compensation and know how to negotiate it with the opposition.
They Can Represent You in Court
If your wrongful death claim needs to go to trial, a lawyer can expertly represent you in court. They have the tools needed for a successful outcome and understanding how the court system works. This can only work in your favor.
Providing Emotional Support
Wrongful death attorneys can provide emotional support to the surviving family members as the case is ongoing. They understand how difficult a time this is and will take care of all the red tape while the family copes with their loss.
Having an Attorney Reduces Stress
Having an attorney for a wrongful death case reduces the stress experienced by the family of the deceased. While they lean on one another for support and cope with their unimaginable loss, they can have some peace of mind in knowing that their case is in expert hands.
They Know the Statute of Limitations
Wrongful death cases have a statute of limitations for filing. Attorneys know this and will ensure that the case is filed with the court in a timely manner so that the surviving family is able to have their chance at recovering compensation for their losses.
They Have Access to Resources
Wrongful death lawyers have access to a variety of resources that can assist in cases. They can use them whenever necessary to make the case even stronger.
You Have an Opportunity for Maximum Compensation
Having a wrongful death attorney representing you in your case gives you the best opportunity for maximum compensation. This is drastically different from self-representing; an attorney’s expertise makes all the difference in the outcome of your case and impacting your potential settlement.
They Have Experience with Insurance Companies
If your claim is through an insurance company, having an attorney in your wrongful death case is crucial. They have the knowledge and experience in dealing with insurers and know how they operate. Insurance adjusters are also reluctant to pull the usual lowball tactics with lawyers as a result.
They Are Objective
Attorneys are objective, making them better equipped to handle wrongful death cases. They don’t get emotional over the situation, so they can make better decisions on behalf of their clients. This allows the family to focus on their own grief and not have to worry about how the case is handled.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Percentage Does a Lawyer Get in a Settlement Case in Florida?
In Florida, a lawyer can get anywhere from 33% to 40% of a settlement in a successful case.
What Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement in New York?
On average, a wrongful death settlement in New York can range from $500,000 to $1 million.
How Much Do Lawyers Take from Settlements in Texas?
Lawyers in Texas can take between 33% to 40% from settlements.
What Is the Highest Wrongful Death Settlement?
The highest wrongful death settlement was $2.64 billion in Estate of Tyler Thomas v. Joshua Keadle, which stemmed from the murder of a college student in 2010. Tyler Thomas’ parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against student Joshua Keadle and Peru State College. Although the college was dismissed from the claim, the plaintiffs recovered a settlement against Keadle.
What Are the Damages for Wrongful Death?
Damages available in a wrongful death case include medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, loss of benefits, loss of inheritance, funeral and burial expenses, loss of consortium, loss of care, guidance and companionship, mental anguish and, in some cases, punitive damages.
What Are the Damages for Wrongful Death in New York?
The damages for wrongful death in New York are the same as those listed above. They include economic damages, noneconomic damages and punitive damages if the defendant’s actions were outrageous or egregious in causing the victim’s death.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out in New York?
In New York, wrongful death settlements are paid out in $50,000 directly to the surviving spouse and the remainder is divided in half between the spouse and the surviving children. If there are no children, the spouse gets the entire settlement. However, if there is no spouse, other survivors can receive the compensation.
Who Are the Beneficiaries of Wrongful Death in New York?
In New York, the beneficiaries of wrongful death are the surviving spouse and children. If the victim was not married, their surviving parents are the beneficiaries. In some cases, the victim’s children or grandchildren are beneficiaries.
Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable in New York?
Wrongful death settlements in New York are not taxable.
What Is the Highest Percentage a Lawyer Can Charge?
The highest percentage a lawyer can charge for wrongful death is 40%.
What’s the Most a Lawyer Can Take from a Settlement?
The most a lawyer can take from a settlement is 40%.
How Do You Calculate a Settlement Amount?
To calculate a settlement amount, the amount for special damages is multiplied by the general damages plus lost wages. However, wrongful death settlements are often more complex to calculate.
Do You Have to Pay Taxes on a Lawsuit Settlement in Texas?
Texas does not impose taxes on lawsuit settlements.
What Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement in Florida?
The average Florida wrongful death settlement is $500,000 to $1 million.