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Can a judge modify a wrongful death award?

The loss of a loved one in Camden County can strike suddenly and tragically, leaving surviving family members with significant emotional pain and suffering. In addition, during their time of pain and grief, these families can be left facing a new, stark financial reality. They may have to find a way to pay extensive medical expenses and funeral costs, and the loss of a loved one's income can leave a family without financial stability. This is wholly unacceptable, especially when the death was caused by the negligence of another.

By filing a wrongful death lawsuit, a surviving family may be able to seek compensation for the damages caused by the responsible individual. This may come in the form of funeral expenses, medical costs and lost wages. However, it is worth noting that even if a jury awards a surviving family compensation, a judge very well could modify the judgement.

A judge can modify an award of compensation in either direction. In other words, he or she could award the family more or less, depending on the circumstances. There are a number of reasons why a judge would modify an award, but his or her decision centers on the specifics of the case at hand. For example, if the deceased individual was known to waste his or her money, then a judge may reduce the award. On the flip side, a judge may increase an award if he or she believes it was too low based on the deceased's unemployment at the time of death. In this instance, it would be important to show that the deceased individual had worked in the past and had a decent average income throughout his or her life.

Proving negligence and causation through a wrongful death claim is one thing, but proving damages is another. Those who take their claim to trial should be sure to fully prepare to show the true extent of the damages caused to them, as this will be the basis for any compensation determination that is made.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed on April 5, 2016

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