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How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid?

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid?Following the loss of a loved one in an accident due to the negligence of another party, you may have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Most people, thankfully, never need to ask what a wrongful death claim is. You may wonder what that process looks like. What, exactly, is a wrongful death settlement? How do wrongful death settlements get paid? What might this compensation look like?

Below, we’ll cover some of the ins-and-outs of wrongful death settlements.

What Are Wrongful Death Settlements?

Wrongful death settlements provide funds in compensation for the loss of a family member due to the negligence of another party. You may receive a wrongful death settlement after losing a loved one in a variety of ways, including construction accidents, auto accidents, or premises liability accidents.

Most of the time, wrongful death settlements get paid out by an insurance company that covers the party liable for causing your loved one’s death. For example, most drivers carry bodily injury protection insurance, which also extends protection after =the death of a victim in an accident. Most business owners and property owners carry premises liability insurance, which can also help provide protection after an accident.

A wrongful death settlement cannot bring your loved one back, but it can provide funds that can help you manage your finances following that loss. In addition to funeral and burial expenses, you may need to replace your loved one’s income or the services your loved one provided to the family. A wrongful death claim can help provide compensation for some of those losses.

Who Decides the Amount of a Wrongful Death Settlement?

Often, the family of the deceased can arrive at an agreement with the insurance company that covers the liable party in a wrongful death claim. Your family can only file one wrongful death claim against each party that caused or contributed to the loss of your loved one.

If, for example, your loved one died in an auto accident against a single driver who bore sole responsibility for the accident, you can file only one claim against that driver. On the other hand, if two drivers both contributed to that accident, or if a driver’s employer’s negligence contributed to the auto accident, you could file a claim against both the driver and the employer.

Each member of the family with grounds for a wrongful death claim—as in the case of a parent with adult children, but no spouse—has an equal right to agree to a settlement amount. Many families designate an attorney to speak for them, which means the attorney will make the agreement concerning the wrongful death claim.

If you cannot reach an agreement with the insurance company regarding the compensation your family deserves for the loss of a loved one, you may choose to turn to mediation to help reach an agreement. In mediation, your family and your attorney will sit down with a mediator, usually a judge or former judge, to present your claim and go over the compensation you feel you deserve and the insurance company’s reasoning. If you cannot reach an agreement in mediation, you may take your claim to court, where a judge or jury will make the final determination of the compensation you deserve for the loss of your loved one.

Paying Wrongful Death Settlements: How It Works

Following a settlement agreement, whether you agree with the insurance company in negotiations or you need to go to court to have a judge settle your claim, you should receive your wrongful death settlement within 30 days. In some cases, the insurance company may negotiate or receive permission from the court to pay out the settlement later, but the insurance company will include this information in the settlement agreement, and you will receive notification of those changes alongside other information about your settlement.

Typically, a wrongful death settlement goes first to the estate of the deceased. The estate will then use those funds to take care of the deceased’s final bills. Depending on the limits of the insurance policy and the amount of the award, a wrongful death settlement may cover factors like:

Funeral and burial expenses. If your loved one had final expenses related to funeral or burial needs that the estate has not already paid or that your loved one did not arrange to pay ahead of time, you can take final expenses out of the amount of the settlement.

Final medical expenses. A wrongful death claim can result even when your loved one does not die immediately in an accident. Your family can file a wrongful death claim when another party’s negligence caused the death of a loved one even if your loved one lingered for weeks or even months following the accident. At that time, your loved one could accumulate substantial medical bills.

The wrongful death settlement can go toward paying those final medical expenses, including fees for:

  • Emergency transport and treatment
  • Hospitalization
  • Procedures intended to save or extend your loved one’s life
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Nursing services
  • Modifications to your loved one’s home intended to make it possible for them to return

Your loved one’s debts. In some cases, your loved one may leave substantial debts behind. If he carried a life insurance policy, the estate can also use those funds to cover remaining debts. In fact, you may receive payment from the life insurance policy before you receive a wrongful death settlement, depending on how long it takes to settle the claim. If any debts or other expenses remain, however, funds from the wrongful death settlement can be used by the estate to cover those expenses.

Disbursement to Loved Ones

Once the estate has covered your loved one’s final expenses, any remaining funds from the wrongful death settlement get disbursed to family members. Keep in mind that you can file only one wrongful death claim against each party that contributed to the loss of your loved one, even if multiple parties have grounds for a wrongful death claim. Typically, your family must decide how you want to handle distributing that settlement between you. You may choose to work with an attorney to ensure fair distribution of the wrongful death settlement.

If the deceased had a spouse at the time of death, the spouse usually has the first right to file a wrongful death claim and to any funds that the family receives for that loss. If the deceased did not have a spouse, the deceased’s children may have the first right to that wrongful death settlement. Each child has an equal right to those funds, including minor children. If the deceased had neither spouse nor children, the deceased’s parents may have the right to funds for a wrongful death claim.

In some cases, arguments may arise over the appropriate distribution of the funds for a wrongful death claim. In some cases, such as a deceased with no spouse and multiple children, the children may argue that everyone deserves an equal claim, or that the family should distribute the claim according to the terms of the deceased’s will. Your family should decide together how to handle those funds. If necessary, work with an attorney to reach an equitable arrangement.

Some other parties may also have the right to a wrongful death claim, especially if they received financial support from the deceased. Contact an attorney to learn more about whether you have the right to file a wrongful death claim after the loss of a loved one.

How Much Compensation Can You Expect in a Wrongful Death Settlement?

The funds received for a wrongful death settlement cannot bring your loved one back. Nevertheless, they can make life easier in the aftermath of that loss. A wrongful death settlement aims to provide some of the financial support the deceased might have provided to the family. Those funds can also help create a firmer foundation as you rebuild your life following the loss of a loved one. Wrongful death settlements usually get capped by the amount of the insurance policy that covers the liable party.

If you lost your loved one in an auto accident with a private driver, for example, that insurance policy might cap at just $10,000 in compensation for bodily injury or wrongful death. Other policies, including policies for commercial drivers, construction companies, or premises liability, may offer higher levels of compensation for your loss. Talk to an attorney to get a better idea of how much compensation you, specifically, should expect for the loss of a loved one.

Generally, a wrongful death settlement takes into account several key factors.

The Loss of Your Loved One’s Income

If you lose the primary breadwinner in your home, it can create a severe financial blow. Not only must you adapt to the loss of your loved one’s presence in your life, you must figure out how to handle your normal expenses. This may mean a spouse who previously stayed home with the children needing to transition to working outside the home, or a spouse who worked a part-time or low-wage job shifting to a job that offers more money. By offering provision for the loss of a loved one’s income, a wrongful death settlement can give the surviving spouse time to go back to school, obtain a new certification, or arrange for a new job.

The Loss of the Services Your Loved One Performed

In addition to their income, your loved one may have provided significant services for your family. In fact, in many cases, the worth of the services your loved one performed for the family could exceed your loved one’s actual income.

Talk to an attorney about how to include the worth of the services your loved one performed for the family, including:

  • Childcare. The cost of daycare for young children has risen substantially over the past several years. For many families, having a parent stay at home can lead to significant savings. When you lose the primary caregiver for those children, however, it may leave you with considerable unexpected financial costs, especially if the other spouse typically works unusual hours.
  • Eldercare. In addition to caring for children, many people also provide care for elderly parents or other relatives. Losing that individual may mean bringing in-home health or even considering a move to a nursing home or assisted living facility, which can significantly increase the family’s costs over the course of several years.
  • Cooking for the family. One meal out for a family of four can easily total $50 or more. Losing the person who took care of the primary cooking and grocery shopping responsibilities can change a family’s budget significantly.
  • Cleaning. Keeping the house clean can quickly turn into a full-time job. Hiring a housekeeper can add to a family’s financial burden even more following the loss of a loved one.
  • Home or vehicle maintenance. In many cases, your loved one may take care of basic tasks around the house, keeping the house in good repair and vehicles running smoothly. Replacing those services with a professional can mean a hard hit to the budget.
  • Yard work. Depending on the size of your yard and your region, you may pay $100 or more per week for someone else to come in and take care of mowing and other yard maintenance.

Additional Compensation for Loss of a Loved One

The law also allows the family of the deceased to recover compensation for the loss of companionship when a loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence. Consult a wrongful death attorney to learn how this applies to your claim.

If you lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party, a wrongful death claim can help provide the funds your family needs to manage final expenses and rebuild your lives. Contact Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney’s today!


Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Suite 150
Orlando, FL 32814
Phone: 407-422-4529

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