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Wrongful Death FAQs

Dealing with the death of a loved one is a painful experience and it’s not easy to deal with financial matters at such times. These wrongful death FAQs can help answer some of the most pressing questions you may have about wrongful death claims and settlements.

What is the difference between a survival action lawsuit and a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal action to claim the direct losses you have suffered as a bereaved family member. A suit filed to recoup your loved one’s losses before death is known as a “survival action.” Family members who qualify will frequently be able to obtain compensation through both kinds of claims.

What does the “one action” rule in California mean? 

All eligible relatives or family members need to take part in a single wrongful death lawsuit, according to California’s “one action” rule. At Krasney Law, we can ensure that all legitimate claims are included in your family’s lawsuit.

Why should you file a wrongful death claim?

There are four reasons why filing a wrongful death is essential. The reasons are as follows:

  1. You lost your loved one due to someone else’s fault. It could be due to an accident on the road or even at work. Or it could be because of someone’s deliberate act (murder). Depending on the cause, you are eligible to file either a civil lawsuit (in the case of accidents) or a criminal lawsuit against the suspected party (in the case of murder). Your settlement or compensation will depend on the type of lawsuit you file.
  2. You are a surviving family member, especially the spouse, parent, or child of the deceased. The person who files such claims is typically an agent for the deceased’s estate. The claim can be submitted on behalf of the surviving family members by a wrongful death lawyer. Such claims may be made by spouses, and also by the parents of a deceased minor. If their parents have passed away, minors may also be eligible for compensation.
  3. The insurance company if the at-fault party is not taking action or offering you lowball settlements that don’t cover your damages. You can prove the defendant was careless and accountable for your loved one’s demise with the help of a wrongful death lawyer. It must be proven that the defendant owed the deceased a standard of care. Then, it must be proven that the standard was broken and this negligence was directly responsible for the death. If necessary, a lawyer can help you in settling the dispute out of court.
  4. You need monetary support. No monetary sum can ever substitute for your loved one. However, a wrongful death lawyer can support you in receiving the highest compensation possible by fervently advocating for your case throughout the legal process. You may be entitled to damages for your loved one’s pre-death distress and suffering, related medical bills, funeral expenses, lost earnings and inheritance, along with loss of companionship and love.

Which factors contribute most frequently to wrongful deaths?

The following are the most common causes of wrongful deaths:

  • Car accidents (including defects in the vehicle)
  • Medical negligence (including the use of wrong drugs or faulty devices)
  • Workplace deaths due to various reasons
  • Medical negligence or errors at nursing homes
  • Defective or incorrect warning labels leading to death
  • Construction site deaths due to various reasons
  • Deliberate acts of violence

Can heirs sue the at-fault driver for punitive damages?

It varies from case to case. Punitive damages are almost never covered by insurance policies, so the auto insurance provider won’t cover them. However, if a claim is made against the driver and is successful, the driver may be required to pay these expenses out of pocket. This is assuming that the driver has sufficient assets to cover a judgment.

Are wrongful death claims public?

Settlements for wrongful deaths are typically not made available to the public. The parties keep their negotiations private. Only the wrongdoer’s insurance company and the people who are entitled to compensation in a wrongful death case are privy to the settlement amount. If the case proceeds to trial, all documents, including the sum of the ruling that the jurors award the plaintiffs, are made public.

Is an autopsy required for a wrongful death lawsuit?

An autopsy is typically not required when the reason for death is obvious. A person killed in a car crash most likely died as a result of the accident. However, there are some circumstances where an autopsy may be necessary. Consider a scenario in which a 75-year-old man who had a severe heart condition was killed in an accident. The insurance company might try to argue that he suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away before the accident, rather than passing away due to the accident. In cases like these, autopsies are extremely helpful. Additionally, the cause of death almost always emerges as a key issue in medical malpractice lawsuits if a person dies. In these cases, an autopsy is nearly always necessary.

Is the payout from a wrongful death claim settlement taxable?

According to IRS Publication 4345, wrongful death losses are treated as compensation for physical injuries so they are exempt from income taxes for the surviving family members. However, keep in mind that if these damages push the estate’s total value over the statutory exemption, then the estate tax may apply. Additionally, in some cases, punitive damages that are granted as part of the ruling may be taxable. 

Never sign a nondisclosure agreement with a release unless the defendant also promises to defend you and indemnify you in the event that the IRS sues you for unpaid taxes. If not, the IRS might claim that it was “bargained for,” in which case the entire award—or a portion of it—would be taxable.

How do you receive the settlement payout from a wrongful death claim?

Settlements for Wrongful Death are typically awarded as a lump sum amount. Attorney fees and other costs associated with obtaining the settlement are subtracted before the sum is paid. The wrongful death successors receive the balance. A structured settlement is occasionally possible. A structured settlement functions similarly to an annuity. The money that would go to the beneficiaries (or whatever portion they specify) is invested with interest. It’s then paid at a yearly or monthly interval. Therefore, if the surviving spouse of the deceased decides she would prefer a monthly income rather than a lump sum, it can be arranged.