Jury Instructions in a Wrongful Death Case:

When settling a wrongful death case, you determine the settlement value by attempting to predict, to the best extent possible, the result of the jury verdict.  One of the most important factors for most wrongful death cases is the mental pain and suffering of the survivors.  After the attorneys complete closing arguments, the jury is sent back into the deliberations room to determine their verdict.  Their verdict is documented on a verdict form, where they are asked a series of questions they must answer in writing.  The six jurors must agree unanimously on the verdict, and the foreperson of the jury signs the verdict form.  With regards to the survivor’s pain and suffering, the question on the verdict form will look something like this:

What is the amount of mental pain and suffering the plaintiff suffered as a result of the decedent’s injury and death from the date of the injury until present?

What is the amount of pain and suffering the plaintiff will more likely than not suffer in the future as a result of the decedent’s injury?

The jury must answer both of these questions.  The only guidance they have in answering the questions comes from the attorneys during closing arguments and the jury instructions given by the judge.  Below is an excerpt of jury instructions that were given in one of my wrongful death cases, with the names of the parties removed:


The mental pain and suffering of the Plaintiff as a result of the injury and death of the decedent from the date of injury. In determining the duration of mental pain and suffering, you may consider the life expectancy of the Plaintiff together with the other evidence in the case.


In determining the duration of any future loss sustained by the Plaintiff by reason of the death of the decedent, you may consider his life expectancy. The mortality tables received in evidence may be considered, together with other evidence in the case bearing on his health, age, and physical condition, in determining how long he may be expected to live.

In that particular case, the jury returned a verdict of $1,000,000 for past mental pain and suffering and $4,000,000 for future mental pain and suffering. They calculated the future mental and suffering by estimating that my client would live another twenty years and awarding him $200,000 per year.

If you believe you have a viable wrongful death case, you should consult an experienced wrongful death attorney immediately.  It’s critical to begin building the evidence in the case as soon as possible. These cases live and die by the evidence, and the sooner the evidence is created and preserved, the better.


Jimmy Fasig

Wrongful Death Lawyer