How are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid?

March 8, 2024 | Ed Bernstein
How are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid?

In addition to the profound soundness and disorientation that comes with losing a loved one unexpectedly, mounting expenses and loss of income confront surviving family members. Suppose you recently lost a loved one due to another person or entity's careless, reckless, or intentional act. If that's the scenario, you might qualify for various monetary damages, including economic and non-economic compensation.

A skilled wrongful death lawyer in your area can explore your available legal options and determine the various settlement options available. Suppose the insurance company refuses to offer you and your family the monetary compensation you need. In that case, your lawyer may pursue wrongful death litigation in the court system and bring your case to an efficient conclusion.


Types of Available Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim or Lawsuit

How are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid?

Wrongful death claims or lawsuits aim to compensate survivors for the losses they incurred due to the death of a loved one resulting from someone else's negligent or intentional actions. Monetary damages awarded in such cases can vary, but common types are available to address the effect on survivors.

  • Funeral and Burial Expenses – One of the most straightforward damages is reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses. This covers the costs of laying the deceased to rest, including funeral services, caskets, burial plots, and related expenditures.
  • Medical Expenses – If the deceased incurred medical expenses before succumbing to their injuries, these costs may be recoverable in a wrongful death claim. This includes hospital bills, medication costs, and any other medical treatments related to the fatal injury.
  • Loss of Financial Support – Survivors may be eligible for compensation to address the loss of financial support resulting from the deceased's death. This can encompass the deceased's expected future earnings, benefits, and other forms of financial contribution to the family.
  • Loss of Companionship or Consortium – Surviving family members may also receive damages for the emotional impact, such as the loss of companionship, guidance, or consortium. This type of compensation recognizes the emotional and relational aspects of the deceased's role in the family unit.
  • Pain and Suffering – In some jurisdictions, damages may be available for the pain and suffering that the deceased experienced before their death. This includes physical and emotional distress resulting from the fatal injury.
  • Punitive Damages – In cases where the responsible party's actions were particularly egregious or demonstrated a willful disregard for safety, punitive damages may be available. Punitive damages aim to punish the wrongdoer and discourage similar behavior in the future.
  • Loss of Inheritance – Survivors may seek damages to compensate for the loss of inheritance resulting from the premature death of a family member. This considers the assets and financial benefits the heirs might have received if the deceased had lived a full life.
  • Grief and Mental Anguish – Compensation for the emotional toll of losing a loved one, including grief and mental anguish, may also be available. This recognizes the psychological effect on surviving family members due to the wrongful death.

Understanding the types of available monetary damages is crucial for navigating the legal complexities of a wrongful death claim. Seeking guidance from experienced attorneys helps ensure that survivors pursue rightful compensation for their losses and cope with the financial and emotional challenges associated with the untimely death of a family member.

How Does a Claimant Receive Payment of a Wrongful Death Settlement?

A recipient of a wrongful death settlement may receive payment through various methods. One common method is a lump-sum payment. In this approach, the claimant receives the entire settlement amount upfront. This immediate payment provides a swift resolution and allows the claimant to address financial needs promptly, such as funeral expenses, outstanding debts, or other immediate financial obligations.

Alternatively, structured settlements offer a different payment arrangement. Structured settlements divide the total settlement amount into periodic payments over a specified period. These regular payments can provide a steady income stream for the claimant and their family, helping to cover ongoing living expenses, medical costs, or other financial needs. The structured format can be particularly beneficial for long-term financial planning.

Upon receiving a wrongful death settlement, claimants may choose between a lump-sum payment or structured settlements, which involve distributing periodic payments over a specified period. This hybrid approach allows claimants to receive a portion of the settlement immediately for immediate needs, with the remaining amount structured for long-term financial stability.

Trusts are another method for disbursing wrongful death settlements. Instead of direct payments to the claimant, a trustee manages the settlement funds in a trust. The trustee then administers payments to the claimant according to the terms specified in the trust agreement. Trusts can provide a level of protection and management for the funds; ensuring they fulfill the intended purposes, such as supporting dependents or covering educational expenses, is a key aspect of trust management.

In certain cases, annuities may be used as a financial instrument to facilitate settlement payments. An annuity involves purchasing an insurance product that guarantees a series of payments over time. The responsible party or their insurance provider may acquire an annuity to fund the settlement, ensuring a steady flow of payments to the claimant.

You must remember that claimants must carefully consider the implications of each payment method and consult with financial and legal professionals to determine the most suitable approach for their circumstances. When deciding on the structure of the settlement payments, consider factors such as tax implications, future financial needs, and the ability to manage a lump-sum payment.

The various ways claimants may receive payment of a wrongful death settlement include lump-sum payments, structured settlements, hybrid approaches combining lump-sum and structured payments, trusts, and the use of annuities. Each method has advantages and considerations, and the choice depends on the claimant's specific financial situation and preferences.

Common Occurrences that Lead to Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims arise from various situations where an individual's death occurs due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another party. Several common occurrences often lead to wrongful death claims, highlighting the diverse circumstances that can result in these tragic situations.

  • Car AccidentsTraffic accidents, including car crashes, motorcycle collisions, or pedestrian accidents, are leading contributors to wrongful death claims. Negligent driving, speeding, impaired driving, and other factors can result in fatal outcomes.
  • Medical Malpractice – Errors or negligence by healthcare professionals can lead to wrongful death claims. This may include misdiagnosis, surgical mistakes, medication errors, or inadequate patient care that results in fatal consequences.
  • Workplace Accidents – Fatalities occurring in the workplace, especially in industries involving hazardous conditions or heavy machinery, may lead to wrongful death claims. Lack of safety protocols, equipment malfunctions, or employer negligence can contribute to fatal accidents.
  • Defective Products – Products with design flaws, manufacturing defects, or inadequate warnings can cause fatal injuries, leading to wrongful death claims. This includes defective automobiles, medical devices, or consumer products.
  • Construction Accidents – The construction industry poses inherent risks, and accidents such as falls, equipment malfunctions, or structural failures can result in fatal injuries. Individuals may pursue a wrongful death claim if negligence or safety violations contribute to these accidents.
  • Dangerous Premises – Property owners may be responsible for fatal accidents if they fail to maintain a safe environment. Slips and falls, inadequate security, or other hazards can lead to wrongful death claims.
  • Criminal Acts – If a person's death occurs due to the intentional criminal acts of another, such as homicide, battery, or assault, it can result in a wrongful death claim. This can happen both within and outside of a workplace setting.
  • Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect – Wrongful death claims may also arise when elderly or vulnerable individuals suffer fatal injuries due to abuse, neglect, or substandard care in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
  • Aviation Accidents – Fatalities resulting from plane crashes or other aviation incidents may lead to wrongful death claims. These cases often involve complex investigations into factors like pilot error, mechanical failure, or air traffic control negligence.
  • Dangerous Drugs – Pharmaceuticals with undisclosed side effects or manufacturing defects can lead to fatal consequences. Drug manufacturers, distributors, or healthcare providers involved in prescribing or administering the drugs may face the pursuit of wrongful death claims.

Understanding these common occurrences that lead to Wrongful death claims is essential for recognizing potential legal recourse for surviving family members. Seeking legal counsel promptly after such incidents is crucial to assess liability, gather evidence, and pursue a rightful claim for compensation and justice.

How to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim Successfully

Successfully proving the legal elements of a wrongful death claim requires a comprehensive and strategic approach. First, establishing the legal duty of care is crucial. This involves demonstrating that the responsible party had a legal obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of the deceased. For instance, a driver has a duty of care to drive safely, and a healthcare professional must provide competent and appropriate medical care.

The next element involves establishing a breach of that duty. This requires presenting evidence that the responsible party failed to fulfill their duty of care through negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. Demonstrating the deviation from accepted standards of care can involve witness testimony, professional opinions, documentation, or other relevant evidence.

Causation is another pivotal element. It involves proving that the breach of duty directly caused the death of the individual. This can be complex, particularly in cases with multiple contributing factors. Professional testimony, medical records, and forensic evidence may be necessary to establish the direct link between the breach of duty and the fatal outcome.

Additionally, proving damages is essential. This involves quantifying the losses that surviving family members suffered due to the wrongful death. Economic damages may include medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of financial support, while non-economic damages encompass emotional pain, loss of companionship, and mental anguish. Presenting evidence such as financial records, professional opinions, and witness statements can help to establish the full extent of these damages.

Evidence gathering and preservation also play a crucial role in proving these legal elements. Timely collection of relevant documents, witness statements, professional opinions, and any available surveillance footage can strengthen the case. Additionally, conducting a thorough investigation and consulting with professionals in relevant fields, such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals, enhances the credibility of the evidence presented.

Engaging experienced legal representation is also important. Skilled attorneys fully understand the legal intricacies of wrongful death claims, know how to navigate the legal system, and can effectively present a compelling case. They can conduct depositions, subpoena records, negotiate with opposing parties, and advocate for the surviving family members in court.

In essence, successfully proving the legal elements of a wrongful death claim requires establishing the legal duty of care, demonstrating a breach of that duty, proving causation, and quantifying damages. Thorough evidence gathering, professional consultation, and skilled legal representation are instrumental in building a robust case that seeks justice and compensation for the surviving family members.

When to Litigate a Wrongful Death Case, Versus Settle 

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Deciding when to prosecute a wrongful death claim is a crucial determination that necessitates careful consideration of various factors. One primary consideration is the strength of the case. If there is compelling evidence demonstrating the responsible party's negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions, pursuing litigation may be warranted. Strong evidence may include:

  • Witness testimony.
  • Professional opinions.
  • Documentation of the breach of duty.
  • There is a clear connection between negligence and the fatal outcome.

Moreover, the extent of damages plays a pivotal role in the decision to prosecute. If the wrongful death has resulted in significant economic and non-economic losses for the surviving family members, pursuing a legal remedy through litigation may be necessary to seek fair compensation. Calculating and presenting the full extent of damages, including medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of financial support, and emotional suffering, can be instrumental in determining the viability of a legal action.

Another factor to consider is the willingness of the responsible party or their insurance provider to negotiate a fair settlement. If negotiation attempts prove unproductive or the offered settlement is inadequate to address the losses suffered, litigation may become the necessary course of action. Litigation provides an avenue to present the case in a court of law, where a judge or jury can assess the evidence and determine the appropriate compensation.

Additionally, the statute of limitations is crucial in deciding when to prosecute a wrongful death claim. Claimants must initiate legal proceedings within a specified timeframe after the incident, varying by jurisdiction. Failing to file a lawsuit within the prescribed timeframe may result in losing the right to pursue legal action.

In some cases, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, such as mediation or arbitration, may be available before opting for litigation. These approaches can provide a less adversarial means of resolving the dispute and may result in a more practical resolution.

The decision to pursue a wrongful death claim depends on factors such as the strength of the case, the extent of damages, negotiation outcomes, and adherence to statutory deadlines. Consulting with an experienced wrongful death attorney is crucial in assessing these factors, guiding the decision-making process, and pursuing the justice and compensation that surviving family members deserve.

Speak to an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer in Your Area Today

If you recently lost a loved one due to another person's wrongful or negligent act, an experienced personal injury attorney can assist. Your lawyer can file a timely claim or lawsuit in pursuit of the financial damages you deserve and work to obtain a favorable result as quickly and efficiently as possible.


Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.