When people lose their lives because of the carelessness and negligence of another person or entity, remaining family members may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible. The liable party could be a driver, an employer, a physician, a caregiver, a manufacturer, or any combination of individuals or entities who caused the death. The deceased’s named estate representative files a claim on behalf of loved ones or others as permitted by the governing state’s prevailing laws. The legal claim helps recover damages resulting from the tragic wrongful death.
Even though this type of case can become extremely complicated, the final damage award can help grieving families find some sense of closure. The information contained here is designed to show family members how funds are disbursed after a successful jury verdict or settlement.
Who Qualifies to File for Wrongful Death?
The individuals eligible to file a wrongful death claim have suffered damages due to the victim’s death. The term “real parties in interest” refers to people who are allowed to file. The individual in charge of the deceased person’s assets and estate is usually the claimant. However, each state varies on allowable circumstances.
Among the “real parties in interest” are:
- Family Members – Immediate family members of the victim are included, namely the spouse and children, biological or adopted. Additionally, parents of any unmarried children are eligible to be included in a wrongful death suit.
- Financial Dependents – Some states permit domestic partners or direct financial dependents to bring wrongful death claims.
- Parents of a Deceased Unborn Child – In some circumstances, the death of an unborn child can qualify for a wrongful death claim, allowing for damages due to financial loss plus pain and suffering. In other situations, a wrongful death claim may only be filed if death occurs after the child is born alive. Each state has its specifics.
- Distant Family Members – Some states will permit grandparents and siblings to file a wrongful death lawsuit, mainly when they were guardians of the victim.
How is the Settlement Paid?
Usually, the insurer of the liable party pays out the settlement amount in a wrongful death suit. Insurance policies from which such funds are paid generally have a policy limit, and insurers will not pay more than the stated policy cap. If this amount is insufficient to pay the total awarded amount, the negligent person who caused the wrongful death is responsible for paying the remainder that is due. Additionally, this individual may have to pay legal fees that accrued during the process.
In an out-of-court settlement, the victim’s family or estate may be given payment in one lump sum that includes financial and emotional losses. This type of payout permits large medical expenses and legal costs to be paid in full. Debts that have accrued during the time-consuming lawsuit process can be eliminated. Flexibility and complete freedom are granted with this settlement payment option.
Other times, however, a structured settlement agreement will be used for claim payment. These structured payments help pay for ongoing financial needs like mortgage payments, medical costs, or larger amounts of financial debt. With a structured settlement, recipients are guaranteed to have a consistent income stream for months or years.
Who Actually Pays the Settlement?
Many people assume that when a deceased victim’s family files a wrongful death lawsuit, the case is directly against the negligent individual who caused the death. This may happen in some instances, but such claims are typically filed against the negligent party’s insurer. Thus, the insurance carrier provides legal representation for the lawsuit. When a victim’s family wins a successful jury verdict or agrees to a wrongful death settlement, payment will be made to them by this insurer or the negligent party directly.
Is This Settlement Taxable?
Per the Internal Revenue Service, wrongful death settlement payments are usually non-taxable due to their compensatory nature. In essence, this means the settlement amount is being provided to compensate for expenses plus pain and suffering the family experienced. However, if a portion of the settlement is designed to punish the negligent party for causing the death, these punitive damages are potentially taxable.
All awarded damages should be specified as either punitive or compensatory to help prevent any confusion for tax purposes. Individuals receiving a settlement in a wrongful death suit should consider consulting a lawyer and an accountant to help understand the legal and tax repercussions of a settlement proposal.
Available Damages in a Wrongful Death Suit
Several different economic and non-economic damages can be claimed by family members who have lost a loved one due to wrongful death. Some of the various types of available compensation include:
- Medical expenses incurred by the victim before death
- Funeral and burial costs
- Pain and suffering
- Lost future earnings of the victim
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium (association/fellowship of a married couple)
No two legal cases are exactly alike. The varying factors of each wrongful death case will be used in determining the total amount that is finally awarded.
Financial Assistance Is Available for Wrongful Death Plaintiffs
A settlement can benefit the victim’s remaining family members, especially if the deceased provided most of the household income. However, the long period from the accident date until the final settlement is awarded can cause serious financial struggles. Hospital bills, funeral expenses, and lost wages can bankrupt a family while the lawsuit slowly proceeds.
Your family should not have to suffer financially any longer. Contact The Legal Funding Group at 912-777-3997, or complete an online application for wrongful death lawsuit funding to help get you through the remainder of the legal process. No financial history or credit score is required for approval.