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Can a wrongful death award be modified?

The unexpected loss of a loved one can leave a family in turmoil. Emotionally speaking, they may struggle to cope with the fact that they will never again be able to spend time with their loved one talking, laughing, and experiencing life. Although these damages can be more than enough for a surviving family to handle, they will likely also be forced to deal with the financial aftermath. Families may find it difficult to come up with the funds to pay for medical expenses and funeral costs, and the deceased individual's lost wages can leave them without the income they need just to get by.

Fortunately, a wrongful death lawsuit may provide financial relief. But even if a family succeeds on imposing liability on an individual via a wrongful death lawsuit, they will still have to present evidence of their damages. A jury will then award compensation that it feels is appropriate for the situation. However, the amount awarded by a jury may not be final.

Instead, a judge may modify a wrongful death award higher or lower, depending on the circumstances. For example, a jury may award compensation that reflects a young decedent's earning potential, but a judge may modify such award downward if the young individual's earnings were comparatively low at the time of death. Additionally, a judge may decrease a jury's award if the deceased individual was known to have wasted his or her income through gambling or some other squandering.

This means that it can be somewhat difficult to determine exactly how much compensation will be awarded if a surviving family succeeds on a wrongful death claim. Yet, a family should put forth as much evidence as possible illustrating the true extent of their losses. An experienced attorney may be able to help a surviving family do so successfully.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed on Nov. 19, 2016

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