The process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit can feel overwhelming, not only because it is complex but because you and your family are likely trying to navigate this legal pathway during a time of immense grief and confusion. You may be unsure about who is going to receive the money in your wrongful death suit, which can make planning for your future financial health difficult. A number of factors influence who will receive the money in a suit.
Money Distribution In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Varies By State
The laws for how a wrongful death settlement is distributed vary widely by state. Some states place stipulations on who can file the suit; this may be an executor who is responsible for the estate, or it may be a relative or family member. Similarly, which relatives may benefit from the settlement is determined by state law; the most common beneficiaries are the surviving spouse, children and parents. While some states mandate that the deceased’s spouse or children are entitled to a certain percentage of the money, not all states have this requirement.
Understanding The Basics Of A Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A wrongful death lawsuit arises when a person is killed due to a wrongful or negligent action on the part of another person or entity. A wrongful death lawsuit seeks to demonstrate that the decedent (the person who was killed) died as a result of negligent behavior; typically the family or estate seeks monetary damages to cover funeral and burial expenses, medical costs, loss of wages from the decedent, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium or loss of companionship. The scope of wrongful death ranges widely, from car accidents and product liability to medical malpractice, among many other possible situations.
There is no standard amount awarded in a wrongful death settlement, but a variety of factors influence the case. The court will consider the losses suffered by the decedent’s family and the monetary compensation that they will require in order to begin to recover. Lost financial support covers areas such as future earnings that the decedent would have provided to the household, while loss of household services will seek to recompense costs associated with taking on the roles that the deceased performed (such as hiring a nanny because the decedent provided childcare). Medical and burial expenses are typically covered, but courts will also consider loss of consortium, or the sudden lack of companionship, love, care and (if applicable) sexual relations that may not be replaceable.
Who Can File
The person responsible for filing a wrongful death lawsuit varies by state. While states will allow family members to file a wrongful death suit, the most common practice is for a representative of the estate to file on behalf of the “parties in interest,” or the family of the decedent. If the family elects to file the suit on their own, it is typically the surviving spouse who brings the wrongful death lawsuit. In the absence of a spouse, many states allow more distant family members such as parents, siblings or adult children to file. If the deceased was a minor, the parents are typically the ones who file.
Money Is Either Distributed To The Deceased’s Survivors Or The Estate
The decedent in a wrongful death case may have both an estate and familial beneficiaries. In general, money is awarded to the estate first, and from this, medical bills and other expenses related to the wrongful death are paid. After this, any remaining damages are paid to the beneficiaries as laid out in state guidelines. Typically, the distribution will go to a widow or widower first, dependent children or dependent next of kin, if applicable. If none of these apply to the decedent, a number of laws will dictate which entities receive the funds.
Consider Seeking Legal Guidance From Wrongful Death Lawsuit Attorneys
If you are beginning the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you are likely still reeling from the unexpected loss of a loved one and the sudden financial implications that this situation has brought upon your family. An attorney can help you to understand who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit. It is important that you file a suit promptly, not only so that your case remains within the statute of limitations but also so that you can receive monetary damages as quickly as possible and get back on track to financial health.
The Brown Firm would be happy to assist you in compiling a wrongful death lawsuit; we will strive to see you awarded monetary damages as quickly as possible while working to ensure that you are granted a fair settlement in your case. Reach out at 703-828-0900 to discuss your situation with a skilled wrongful death lawyer who can guide you through the process.