A wrongful death claim is functionally similar to a personal injury claim in many ways, but everyone should know the distinctions between them when it comes to receiving the proceeds of a wrongful death claim. Depending on the type of settlement, the beneficiaries of a wrongful death claim receive, they may have options for disbursement that offer different advantages.
Damages Available From a Wrongful Death Claim
Since a wrongful death claim is essentially a personal injury claim filed on behalf of a victim who died from his or her injury, the damages available generally reflect those seen in typical personal injury cases. However, several other types of compensation are possible from a wrongful death claim, as these claims also allow the family of a deceased person to receive compensation for their emotional suffering and other intangible losses, such as loss of consortium, guidance, and household services.
Most wrongful death claims end at the settlement phase; a prolonged legal battle in trial is not in either party’s best interests. Both sides pay more in legal fees the longer a lawsuit continues, so wrapping it up quickly is mutually beneficial. When a wrongful death claim settles at the negotiating table, the plaintiffs may have options when it comes to disbursement of their settlement.
The most common way for a defendant to resolve a wrongful death claim is to offer a lump-sum payment. The plaintiffs receive a single large payment for their damages, and this can offer a great deal of financial flexibility following a wrongful death. The family can use the proceeds from a lump-sum payment to pay for their deceased loved one’s final expenses including medical bills for the treatment of his or her final illness or injury, burial and funeral expenses, and other tangible damages resulting from the death. The family will also likely receive compensation for their emotional suffering and the pain and suffering of their deceased loved one that occurred between his or her final illness or injury and death.
The alternative to a lump-sum payment is a structured settlement, or a settlement the defendant pays incrementally over time. Depending on the damages involved in the case, this may be helpful for paying for long-term expenses resulting from the wrongful death, but very little is available for the plaintiffs in terms of flexibility. It is almost always impossible to modify a structured settlement agreement, so plaintiffs in wrongful death claims must be careful about which type of settlement they accept.
Who Receives Wrongful Death Claim Payouts?
Each state upholds guidelines concerning who can file wrongful death claims, the damages available, and how claimants can collect the proceeds from a successful claim. Some states also limit the amount of compensation available in some types of wrongful death claims, especially medical malpractice claims. However, many states have recently struck down laws limiting recovery from wrongful death claims as those states’ courts deem such caps as arbitrary limiting factors on plaintiffs’ recovery.
A wrongful death claim aims to compensate the beneficiaries and/or dependents of the deceased. In most cases, the deceased person’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, or other close blood relative must file the wrongful death claim. However, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate may also file a wrongful death claim.
State laws determine how beneficiaries receive the proceeds from a wrongful death claim. In some states, for example, the surviving spouse and child of the victim in a wrongful death claim would split the proceeds of the claim, or the parent would receive the proceeds and act as a caretaker for the child’s share until he or she reaches the age of majority.
Ultimately, anyone facing a wrongful death claim in Arizona should consult a Phoenix wrongful death attorney about what to expect when it comes to collecting the proceeds of a successful wrongful death claim.