The answer is that a case could go either way. In this particular example, two police officers shot a 15-year-old boy in Bakersfield and the city council approved a settlement of $75,000. The family’s lawyer felt the case would have resulted in a larger award had it gone to a trial.
The story behind this case is that the two officers stated the boy stole a car and when he was spotted driving it, he led them on a chase that concluded at a dead end. Further statements by the officers indicated the boy backed his vehicle up while they were getting out of their patrol car. Both fired on the boy at that point.
The police department called the shooting justified, however there was evidence that one of the officers involved in this death was also involved in two other fatal shootings in 2010. Would they have done better at trial? They might have, but the family could not bear the pain of a trial and reliving the facts of the case.
Often wrongful death settlements or awards are not about revenge. They are about making sure that the same thing does not happen to another family.