The Clarion Ledger recently reported that the Karen Irby wrongful death suit has been settled. Since the plaintiffs had previously dismissed Karen Irby from the suit – the settlement was actually against Stuart Irby. In any case, the settlement amount was not disclosed, but the article mentioned that the plaintiffs had sued the Irbys for $60 million. It is important to note that the amount requested in the lawsuit, in this case 60 million dollars, is pretty irrelevant to what the actual settlement or jury verdict will be. As long as the plaintiff’s lawyer files a claim which does not contain frivolous allegations and was not filed to harass the defendant, then the plaintiff can request whatever amount they want.
In the Irby matter, the personal injury settlement amount is unlikely to be $60 million. If I had to guess, I would bet the range would be $25 – 30 million. I am simply estimating this amount because of the high future earning capacity of the victims, the nature of the accident, and the possibility of punitive damages.
The victims both have claims for loss of future earnings, and since both were doctors, the loss of future earnings is high. For example, a doctor who is 35 years old with anticipated earnings of $150,000 a year would have a work life capacity of 40 years. You multiply 40 by 150,000, and then reduce it based upon interest accrued, and you have a pretty significant personal injury claim, and this is just for the wage loss of one doctor.
Pain and Suffering and Punitive Damages
Additionally, the plaintiffs suffered a horrible death. As I understand it, their vehicle exploded, and it is possible that they suffered excruciating pain prior to their deaths. This would be a claim for pre-death pain and suffering. Then you would also factor into the punitive damage claim, which are damages awarded to punish the defendants for their negligence. This is assuming that the insurance company did not have an exclusion for punitive damages.
In any event, the personal injury lawsuit was for $60 million, but the settlement amount was likely significantly less than that. However, it was probably a pretty large settlement amount, considering the wage loss, pain and suffering, punitive damages and the circumstances of the accident. For serious personal injury cases, it is important to hire an attorney with the experience to recognize the true value of the claim.