How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid?

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid?

The emotional pain one experiences when losing a family member through someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing is immeasurable. That can be compounded by financial difficulties also brought on by the loss.

Enlisting an experienced wrongful death attorney to help you file a legal claim will at least take some legal pressure off you and bring some financial relief.

Wrongful death lawsuit vs. a survival claim

It isn’t unusual for a nonprofessional to confuse a wrongful death lawsuit with a survival claim, but they are two separate things. You might, however, file a survival claim along with a wrongful death lawsuit.

A wrongful death lawsuit falls under the jurisdiction of a personal injury claim. An immediate surviving family member such as a spouse or child can file a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages sustained through the loss of a loved one.

You may file a survival claim when a neglectful injury did not lead to immediate death. It is a personal injury claim on behalf of your loved one.

To file a survival claim, your loved one must have survived for some time following a neglectful accident. This can allow you to seek compensation for damages that a wrongful death claim can't recover, including your loved one's pain and suffering between the accident and their death.

Compensation you can seek in a wrongful death case

While nothing can compensate for the loss of a loved one through filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you could recover compensation for the financial losses you have and will suffer. In Virginia, you may be able to receive compensation for economic and non-economic damages, as well as punitive damages.

Economic damages are those that already come with a financial figure.

Some of these include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Hospital and medical expenses before death
  • Lost wages of the decedent which would have gone toward supporting the family
  • Routine household services the decedent would normally have performed such as childcare, cleaning, and/or cooking
  • Inheritances and other benefits family heirs would have received in the future from the decedent

Non-economic damages do not come with an exact dollar amount but try to put a value on the loss of such things such as:

  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of guidance and support
  • Loss of consortium

Punitive damages only become a factor when there is proof of recklessness, maliciousness, or gross negligence resulting in the wrongful death of your loved one.

A wrongful death case will not consider pain and suffering, emotional distress, or disfigurement of the deceased. Through survival claim action, you may recover such damages.

The various damages and compensation can be very confusing. This is one of the many reasons why you need a wrongful death attorney who is experienced and well-versed in such matters.

What factors could affect my wrongful death settlement case?

Costs including funeral expenses and medical bills are a given. Your wrongful death lawyer can calculate other values with help from a qualified financial adviser.

For example, to determine future earnings your loved one would have provided in years to come would include not only their current earnings but also:

  • Education and skills
  • Potential for future promotions and raises
  • Age at time of death and the number of years they would have expected to work
  • Contributions to retirement accounts and other future financial benefits
  • Inflation

A similar evaluation would be needed to determine the value of the decedent’s household contributions, such as childcare, along with the number of years they would have participated in those contributions.

Will I have to pay taxes on my settlement?

According to the IRS, wrongful death settlement compensation is nontaxable. Money from a personal injury claim reimburses you—you don’t profit from it. It is therefore exempt.

Punitive damages are an exception that the IRS considers taxable income. You would need to discuss this with your tax preparer.

How and when will I receive my wrongful death settlement?

If you agree to a settlement before a wrongful death lawsuit goes to trial, a court will need to approve

the settlement.

When you settle, either in or out of court, the defendant will need to pay the awarded damages. All, or a portion of this, may come from insurance with the balance coming directly from the defendant. The plaintiff's wrongful death lawyer usually collects the monies.

Your attorney will make payments due to the estate and its creditors, including his or her law office. Following, the remaining damages fees will be distributed to the beneficiaries as awarded through the settlement.

What if Medicare paid the decedent’s medical bills?

If your loved one had medical bills that Medicare paid before their death, representatives may seek reimbursement from the estate. But wrongful death damages are paid to survivors as compensation and Medicare can’t collect it.

However, Medicare may have recourse through a survival action settlement. If a Medicare representative or someone from any other health insurance provider contacts you regarding medical bills in the wrongful death of your loved one, ask them to contact your attorney.

Why you need a wrongful death attorney to get your best settlement

Wrongful death lawsuits are some of the most difficult cases a personal injury lawyer must deal with. Someone untrained in the legal profession will find themselves at a major disadvantage trying to go it alone. To receive the best resolution, you need to hire a well-trained, experienced attorney who isn’t afraid to go all the way to the courtroom.

No one and nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. But a wrongful death attorney will help you recuperate the lost income you may otherwise have experienced through the loss of your family member while also providing you some peace of mind.

William B. Kilduff


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