Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The loss of a loved one is not easy, you may be overwhelmed at a time full of grief and uncertainty, especially when someone passes away from a situation that could have been avoided.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the family is entitled to collect compensation for the loss of their loved one and the future earnings they may have received before the cause of death. In Massachusetts, however, you must be the executor or personal representative of the deceased’s estate to have legal rights to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Loss of income can be broken into three categories:
- Category 1 – wages lost from the time of the incident and the time the deceased passed
- Category 2 – income lost for the working years that the decedent left
- Category 3 – lost earnings during retirement
Many wrongful death lawsuits are a result of these scenarios:
- Car crashes
- Injuring a pedestrian
- Drunk driving
- Slip and falls
- Defective products
- Abuse, assault, or manslaughter
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
Only the beneficiaries of a descendant’s estate are entitled to damages in a wrongful death case which includes the surviving spouse, children, or next of kin. If there is a will and other people are mentioned as beneficiaries, they too will have the right to share the wrongful death earnings.
Claims must be brought through the estate by a person legally appointed as the representative for the lawsuit to be considered. If compensation is rewarded, the estate will distribute the damages according to the laws of intestate distribution, if a will does not exist. That way the correct person will inherit the necessary wages after someone dies.
How Long Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Take?
The family or representative or administrator has approximately three years to file a wrongful death lawsuit or three years after they learn of the cause of death. The length of time depends on the case, at times it may be shorter depending on the evidence that is provided to the court. If the lawsuit is not filed within the Statute of Limitations a court may refuse to consider it.
Every personal injury or wrongful death case is unique. Some settle quickly while others take months if not years to resolve. The average time it takes to fight a wrongful death lawsuit is one to four years in court. Even if the case does not go to trial, it takes time to perform a thorough investigation.
The time to file a wrongful death lawsuit is limited, it is advised that you hire an experienced attorney who can help you protect and preserve your rights. Important evidence must be investigated and collected as soon as possible to utilize in building a strong case.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Payout
You will find damages for wrongful death lawsuits under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 229 § 2. Economic damages may be claimed as part of this lawsuit as with many other kinds. This will depend on the cause of death and what kind of expenses were incurred as a result of this death.
Economic damages include funeral expenses, medical bills because of the incident, and sometimes work compensation. For example, if a loved one passes away in a car accident, the cost of the hospital bills and vehicle expenses can be rewarded to the family. A knowledgeable lawyer will collect the appropriate information you need if hired to help you fight the case.
Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable?
Wrongful death lawsuits may include compensatory damages for injuries and punitive damages, both may result in insurance settlements or awards at trial. Generally, according to the Internal Revenue Service, any amounts compensatory through personal injury lawsuits are non-taxable.
Because punitive damages are meant to act as punishment and do not consider incurred expenses or losses, they are typically considered taxable income. It is advised to contact a tax lawyer CPA regarding your tax responsibility if you receive proceeds from a wrongful death lawsuit. Every case is different and must be assessed before resulting in a court case.
How to Divide a Wrongful Death Settlement
Calculating the value of a wrongful death settlement is similar to that of a personal injury claim, with some more considerable differences. Damages available after this claim are based on the suffering and losses of the family. An experienced lawyer will determine the economic and non-economic losses you are entitled to be compensated for.
When a person dies, most of their wages will become a part of their estate. The assets are typically divided between the designated beneficiaries which will then be distributed between the family members or others outlined in the will. If you believe that your loved one died a wrongful death, contact Bonville and Howard to help you fight and win the case.
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