Wrongful Death Settlements vs. Trials: Pros and Cons of Each Legal Avenue

BIKLaw Medical Malpractice Lawyer > Wrongful Death > Wrongful Death Settlements vs. Trials: Pros and Cons of Each Legal Avenue

When a loved one has been fatally wounded in California by a negligent medical provider or other party, you may have the right to file a wrongful death claim against them. A wrongful death claim can provide you and your family with compensation for the losses you experience due to your loved one’s passing.

However, such compensation is only available if your claim is successful. A claim can succeed through two main avenues: settlement or trial. While a trial is guaranteed as a constitutional right if you can provide sufficient evidence to support your case, a settlement is a voluntary agreement between the parties; you cannot force a party to settle a case if they do not wish to do so. Whether a claim is settled or goes all the way to trial, both of these options have advantages and disadvantages. It’s therefore important to understand their differences to decide which avenue is best for you.

Settling Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit

First, if the opposing party is willing to offer compensation to settle your claim (which is a big if), you can choose to settle your claim against the other party out of court. If you pursue this option, your wrongful death lawyer will attempt to negotiate with the other party regarding the amount of compensation you should receive for your loved one’s passing. This negotiation can take some time before it proves to be fruitful, or it may not even be an option if the opposing party is not interested in such discussions.

If you and the other party agree on a settlement amount, the other party will typically pay that amount to you quickly. Once they do, most settlement agreements require you to dismiss your legal case against the other party and agree not to refile it or seek additional compensation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Settlement Agreements

Settlements offer numerous advantages to family members of a decedent who have filed a wrongful death lawsuit. One of the greatest advantages is the speed with which compensation is delivered.

Depending on the facts of your case, the complexity of the issues, the amount of discovery required, and the willingness of the other party to settle the matter, a wrongful death settlement can be negotiated on a timeframe ranging anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. In either event, this is necessarily a faster method of resolution than trial, which is the final step in a wrongful death dispute.

Additionally, compensation is guaranteed if a settlement is reached. Even though most settlements do not require the other party to admit fault, the agreement requires them to pay regardless of whether they believe they were responsible for your loved one’s passing.

Finally, settlements eliminate the risk of going to trial and losing, in which case you would receive nothing as compensation, and potentially could be asked to pay the costs incurred by the party that you’ve sued.

The drawback of a settlement is that although you are guaranteed to obtain compensation, the amount is typically less than you would get at trial, assuming you would win at trial, which is not guaranteed. Also, once a settlement is reached, you cannot undo the agreement if you want additional compensation. Therefore, the settlement you agree to must be sufficient to meet your present and future needs, as you will not be able to ask for additional compensation.

Going to Trial

If negotiations for a settlement fail, or if the opposing party does not wish to settle the case, or if the circumstances of your case otherwise warrant going to trial, you may choose to take your case to trial. In this scenario, your lawyer will advocate for you in the courtroom before a judge or jury.

Pros and Cons of a Trial

A trial has the advantage of being decided by neutral factfinders. This can be especially advantageous when the other party is not reasonable about their liability or the amount of compensation you deserve to be made whole.

In this circumstance, a trial verdict in your favor can lead to a compensation award larger than what may have been offered as a settlement.
However, trials come with a sufficient amount of risk and expense. At a wrongful death trial, you bear the legal burden of establishing that the other party’s conduct was both negligent and the cause of your loved one’s passing. This means that if a judge or jury does not believe you have shown these propositions to be more likely than not true, you could receive no compensation at all.

Another disadvantage to proceeding to trial is the amount of time you could wait before your case sees a courtroom. It can take months or years before the court has time to hear your case and all parties and witnesses are available. Until this time, you would be left having to address the costs and losses of your loved one’s passing yourself.

The time it takes your case to reach trial can also be a disadvantage if evidence and witness testimony are not properly preserved. Evidence can be lost, and witnesses can forget important information if the proper steps are not taken to secure it for later use at trial.

Consulting a Wrongful Death Lawyer Is Vital

Don’t leave this crucial decision to chance. A wrongful death lawyer from The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. can evaluate the details of your case and recommend the best option for you and your family. Our commitment is to your recovery, and we will devote our skills and resources to helping you succeed.
Contact The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. to schedule a consultation today.

Questions? Contact us