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Are wrongful death claims just about the money?

Many wrongful death suits settle out of court—and it isn't uncommon for the families of the victims and the defendants in the case to maintain that the settlement reflects different things.

For the families of victims, the lawsuits are often about more than just money; they help bring about much-needed changes that spare others from going through the same thing in the future. That's why it's important for plaintiffs to ask themselves, "What really matters the most to me?" when pursuing their claim.

For example, Randall County officials recently voted to settle a wrongful death claim with the family of a county jail inmate for $50,000. While not an insignificant sum, it probably doesn't come close to the amount that the family might have gotten had they pursued the case further.

Then again, since the exact cause of death couldn't be attributed to the inmate's fall, withheld medical care and rough treatment at the hands of his guards, the family of the victim might have walked away from trial with nothing.

Now, the family believes that they've gained much more than just that small financial settlement.

Randall County's prosecutor said the settlement was made in the interest of expediency and economics, allowing the county to settle up for less than a third of what it would have cost just to defend the case. The county also avoids admitting any wrongdoing.

However, the attorney for the plaintiffs said that they believe that the settlement is an acknowledgment that things should have been handled differently. As evidence, they point to the fact that the jail has changed the way it provides inmates with medical services, adopting measures that should prevent similar deaths.

The county disputes the timing of the changes, claiming they were already in place, but the family believes otherwise.

Had the case never been brought, it wouldn't have focused attention—and pressure—on jail officials who denied a man with a known history of grand mal seizures medical care even after he was clearly experiencing confusion and hallucinations—to the point where he believed a shower curtain was talking to him.

Wrongful death actions are often about more than just money, and settlements can even include agreements about changes that have to be made to prevent future tragedies. When you discuss the possibility of a case with your attorney, make sure to discuss everything you'd like to see happen.

Source: Amarillo Globe-News, "Randall County Commissioners settle inmate wrongful death suit," Robert Stein, Feb. 02, 2017

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Brian Jensen

Representation in the Houston Area with 3 Convenient Locations:

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Frost Bank Building, 6750 West Loop South, Suite 800
Bellaire, TX 77401

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