Should I settle my wrongful death claim?

With every case as a wrongful death attorney, there comes a time when I present to my clients the option of settling their case or going to a jury trial.  It’s my job to advise my client regarding what I would do if I were in their shoes.  I always ask myself the question, which option is in my client’s best interest?

Over the years, I’ve noticed a huge disparity in the values of wrongful death cases.  One of the most important factors in determining the outcome of a wrongful death case is the client’s willingness to take it to trial.  In general, if my client is ready and willing to go to trial, I can negotiate a much more favorable settlement than I can for a client who doesn’t want to go to trial under any circumstances.  The leverage I have as an attorney that allows me to maximize the case value is the ability and willingness to try the case.  

Insurance companies and big corporations don’t settle cases because it’s the right thing to do.  They settle cases because they want to get out of the case as cheaply as possible.  They don’t offer big money settlements unless they have a credible threat of having to pay more through the jury trial process.  My job as your attorney is to build the evidence in the case so that I’m ready to try it.  When the insurance company or corporation sees the evidence and knows that I’m ready to try it and will probably win, they get a lot more serious about reasonable settlement offers.

I’ve had multiple cases settle after we picked a jury or presented a couple of days of evidence.  Those settlements are often twice, three times, or several times what the defense had offered before the trial.  There’s no guarantee, but in a wrongful death case where the facts are in your favor, I think it’s wise to be patient and willing to try the case because the “try your case” mentality maximizes the possibility of a full and fair settlement.  And if it doesn’t settle during the trial, you have a high probability of winning a big jury verdict because the evidence is in your favor.

Suppose you are considering whether to settle or try your case. In that case, I highly recommend you discuss these considerations in detail with your attorney, who is hopefully an experienced wrongful death attorney.  Experienced means they have tried to verdict at least one wrongful death case as lead counsel and won.  It might surprise you that many lawyers who consider themselves trial lawyers have never won a wrongful death case, or any case for that matter.  The decision of whether to settle or try your case can be the biggest decision of your life.  Talk to someone who knows what they’re doing.


Jimmy Fasig