Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

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Losing a loved one to someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or worse is a tragic event that can be especially difficult to overcome. Of course, nothing can bring your loved one back or provide you with the peace you and your family are looking for, but obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled can help you to continue moving forward through the healing process.

Wrongful death claims are especially challenging legal matters, and even the issue of who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit can leave claimants unsure of how best to proceed. If you find yourself in this difficult position, don’t wait to reach out to the skilled legal counsel of an experienced wrongful death attorney in Beverly Hills. Contact the One Law Group to schedule a case evaluation.

Who Are the Wrongful Death Beneficiaries in California?

In California, the following survivors of the decedent – the person who lost their life to someone else’s negligence, thus sparking the wrongful death case – are eligible to file for compensation:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse
  • The decedent’s surviving domestic partner
  • The decedent’s surviving children
  • The decedent’s surviving grandchildren – if the decedent’s children are no longer living
  • Any other minor children, such as stepchildren, who depended upon the decedent for at least half of their financial support
  • Anyone else who, by California’s laws of intestacy, is in line to inherit from the decedent

Wrongful Death Claim Compensation

In California, you can seek the following categories of compensation in a wrongful death claim:

  • The financial support that your loved one will have contributed to your household throughout their life expectancy or yours – whichever is shorter
  • The value of the gifts and benefits that you will have likely received if the decedent had survived
  • The cost of your loved one’s funeral and burial
  • The value of the services that your loved one will have performed around the house
  • The loss of your loved one’s companionship, comfort, care, love, assistance, affection, protection, society, moral support, intimacy, and guidance

In California, punitive damages —which are designed to punish the at-fault party and dissuade others from engaging in similar bad acts — are only available if the decedent lost their life in a felony homicide in which the defendant is ultimately convicted of the crime.

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?

Once the wrongful death claim is resolved, the settlement money – or court award if the matter goes to trial – is distributed to the survivor or survivors who filed it.

In California, survivors are allowed to determine how these settlements will be divided between them – generally according to the degree that each of them is affected by the decedent’s death.

However, when multiple claimants are not in agreement regarding the distribution of compensation, they can address the matter at mediation or in civil court. This will determine how to divide the wrongful death settlement in accordance with the economic impact experienced by each survivor.

A Lump-Sum Payment vs. a Structured Settlement

If you prevail with your wrongful death claim, the form that the distribution of funds will take ultimately comes down to the defendant.

If your wrongful death claim, however, was filed against the at-fault party’s insurance provider – such as a claim that flows from a car accident – the insurance company is generally better situated to make a lump-sum payment than an individual will be.

There are two primary means of paying out wrongful death settlements.

Wrongful death lump-sum payments

With a lump-sum payment, you receive all the compensation you are awarded in one payment. With this lump-sum payment, you can address any medical bills and legal fees that you were floating while your claim was pending. As such, a lump-sum payment affords benefits such as avoiding the deferral of debts and the accrual of interest as a result.

Wrongful death structured settlements

With a structured settlement, you will receive ongoing payments until your settlement amount is paid in full. The terms of your settlement determine the conditions by which your structured settlement will be paid, typically on a monthly basis. With a structured settlement, you won’t have immediate access to your settlement funds, which can lead to financial challenges.

Are Taxes Assessed on Wrongful Death Money?

Wrongful death claims are complicated legal matters, and the tax implications follow suit. Survival actions, which are distinct from wrongful death claims, can be taxable, while the compensation you receive from a wrongful death claim generally is not.

The reasoning is that these funds are intended to compensate you for your losses – rather than being additional income – so there is no taxable event. In those rare instances when wrongful death claims lead to punitive damages that are designed to punish the at-fault party, the punitive amount can be taxed.

An Experienced California Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help

If you’ve lost a loved one to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you face difficulties ahead, but a wrongful death claim can help with the financial end of things. The skilled Beverly Hills wrongful death attorneys at One Law Group dedicate their imposing practice to skillfully advocating for just compensation that helps our grieving clients heal.

To request a consultation, contact us online or call us today.

Wrongful Death Case FAQs

Do I qualify to file a wrongful death claim?

If you are the surviving spouse, child, or parent of someone who lost their life to another party’s negligence, you may. Consulting with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney is advised.

Can I file the wrongful death claim on my own?

Civil claims based on negligence are legally complicated, and wrongful death claims are more so. To protect your rights – in pursuit of your rightful compensation – you need an accomplished wrongful death attorney in your corner.

What if I can’t afford a wrongful death attorney?

Most reputable wrongful death attorneys work on contingency, which means they don’t get paid until the client prevails with a settlement or court award.

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