The sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one is never easy to take. Surviving family members can be left grief-stricken, not knowing how to carry on with their own lives. The heartache can be exacerbated when the death was caused by the negligence of another. Knowing that the fatal accident that stripped their loved one away from them can leave a family thirsty for some sense of justice. Oftentimes this comes in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit, which, when successful, can bring accountability, closure, and compensation.

Although imposing liability on a negligent individual can be challenging, so, too, can proving the full extent of one’s damages. After all, wrongful death compensation is often both forward and backward-looking. One way that it is forward looking is that a jury must decide how much lost wages an individual would otherwise have earned. Many factors can go into this determination, including an individual’s education and his or her wage at the time of death.

It is important to know, though, that since there are so many subjective factors that can go into a compensatory award determination, the judge has the ability to modify a jury’s award. This modification can be either an increase or a decrease. A judge may decrease an award, for example, when an individual is known to have squandered his or her income. On the other hand, a judge may increase an award based on the evidence before him or her. For example, lost wages may be awarded even if an individual was unemployed at the time of death, particularly if it was shown that the deceased individual had a work history, and evidence of his or her income during those work periods was evidenced.

All of this is to say that when a family decides to file a wrongful death lawsuit, they need to be prepared with as much evidence as they can gather. Additionally, their legal arguments in support of not only an imposition of liability, but also for the full extent of compensatory damages, must be as strong as possible. Therefore, those hoping to pursue a wrongful death claim may want to consider speaking with a legal advocate who may be able to give them the legal voice and protection they need.