Understanding Wrongful Death Settlements
What constitutes wrongful death?
Wrongful death happens when someone dies due to the intentional actions or negligence of another person or party. Whether the harm was intentional or not, the deceased’s family will need to pay medical and funeral costs without the income that the deceased may have provided. The deceased’s loved ones undergo a great deal of emotional and psychological suffering, as well.
What are wrongful death settlements?
With a successful wrongful death claim, the deceased’s family may be able to obtain financial compensation for the damages with a structured settlement. The deceased’s family can then benefit from the consistent stream of income that the settlement provides.
Wrongful deaths could include any of the following events:1
- Car Crashes
- Workplace Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Slip and Falls
- Faulty Products
Who can make a wrongful death claim?
The claimant, or the person (or party) that has suffered hardship due to the deceased’s wrongful death, is also known as the “real party in interest.” Real parties in interest are also generally in charge of the deceased’s estate. Different states may expand or alter this definition. The real parties in interest might consist of:
- Spouses and Children - The immediate family of the deceased are typically the most common claimants in wrongful death cases. Adopted children can file a claim, as well.
- Dependents - Domestic partners or other financial dependents can file a wrongful death claim in some parts of the country.
- Distant Family - Depending on the state, grandparents or siblings can also file wrongful death claims. This proves especially true if they were guardians of the deceased.
In some cases, the parents of a fetus that perished before or after birth can also file a wrongful death claim. For further information, look into the laws specific to your state.1
How does someone file a wrongful death claim?
The process for pursuing a wrongful death claim is complicated. For the best chance at a favorable wrongful death settlement, experts suggest hiring legal representation. They can help you navigate complex legal matters and how they may change depending on your state, like the statute of limitations. Having professional guidance in these matters can make this process much more manageable.2
Reaching a Wrongful Death Settlement
Often, wrongful death cases settle before entering the court process. Additionally, there are options for using a structured and binding process to settle outside of court, there are two main methods:
- Arbitration - A judge or other qualified authority hears the cases of both the defendant and the claimant over a number of meetings. After ruling in favor of one party, their decision is legally binding. In instances of non-binding arbitration, the verdict can sometimes be appealed. The claim may still enter court if neither party finds the arbiter’s recommendations favorable.
- Mediation - Although similar to arbitration, the mediation process simply involves a professional mediator that listens to both parties and provides suggestions for settlement.3
Depending on the nature of the claimant’s damages, they have several options for payout. For example, receiving a lump sum payment may help the deceased’s loved ones pay for current medical and legal fees or eliminate debt. A structured settlement, on the other hand, can serve as a steady stream of income for the claimants. Although this option provides less flexibility, it can act as a substitute for the income that the deceased would have provided. After a structured settlement is agreed upon, it can be difficult or even impossible to alter its terms. However, there are other ways to get cash now if you need access to your funds sooner.
Contact J.G. Wentworth
At J.G. Wentworth, we have helped people with wrongful death settlements understand the options available to them concerning their payments. If you want to sell your structured settlement payments to get cash now, we are here to answer your questions.
The above is some basic information on the topics, and is not a complete guide. J.G. Wentworth Financial Solutions is a purchaser of assets and does not provide legal, tax, or financial advice. Please contact independent professionals for legal, tax and/or financial advice.