A wrongful death can strike any family at any time. This occurs when a loved one is suddenly taken due to the negligence, misconduct or recklessness of another person or entity. Beyond being engulfed by grief and a sense of helplessness, the family members must strive to handle the financial crisis that sometimes exists.
To counter the loss of monetary support the deceased provided, the family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party. The relief this claim will bring might help the family’s financial stress, but it will not lessen the grief they feel.
Expenses After a Family Member’s Death
For many families, day-to-day expenses are hard to deal with. After a family member dies, particularly if they provided monetary support, things can go downhill quickly. Usually, those grieving pay little attention to financial worries at the start. Slowly, however, a mountain of bills arrive, and the family may seek help.
Damages That Occur Due to a Wrongful Death
There are two main categories of damages. The first is the damages the surviving family members suffered due to their loved one’s death. They are:
- Funeral and burial costs: The cost of such end-of-life expenses can be greater than many families can afford. The average price of a funeral and burial ranges from $3,000 to $10,000 in California. For some families, this represents a sizable hardship.
- Loss of financial support: The deceased may have contributed to the economic well-being of the family. This can have far-ranging effects.
- Loss of inheritance: This affects the inheritance a child might have received had the decedent lived.
- Household chores: Many families are amazed at the amount of work the decedent did around the home. To replace their efforts, it might become necessary for the family to hire outside help. The cost of this can mount as time goes on.
- Lost wages: The wages the decedent earned and would have made in the future are also considered damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Loss of other income: This can include bonuses the decedent might have received and retirement accounts and insurance policies that grow over time. For instance, permanent life insurance has a death benefit paid when the person dies and a cash value that increases over the years.
- Loss of companionship and guidance: This encompasses the love and guidance the decedent would have provided to family members.
Damages Suffered by the Decedent
The second type of damages is that suffered by the decedent prior to their death. Since the deceased can no longer file a personal injury lawsuit to reclaim damages, it is done by their estate. This type of claim is commonly referred to as a survivor action.
A survivor action covers the period between the accident and the person’s death. For example, in a car accident, the victim may not die at the scene. Instead, they may be taken to the hospital by ambulance where they would be treated for their injuries until their death. This could take days, weeks or even months. During this period, the person would experience physical and mental pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses.
If the accident was due to egregious actions, it is possible under most circumstances to ask for punitive damages. Such damages are not compensatory or economic damages meant to recover the person or family’s loss. Punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault entity. A wrongful death lawsuit cannot include punitive damages. However, it is possible in a survivor action.
Eligibility for Receiving a Wrongful Death Settlement
The following surviving family members are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The decedent’s spouse or domestic partner
- The putative spouse (In California, this is a person who is unaware that their wife or husband is already married and believes that their marriage is legal. They will be able to claim marital property along with the registered spouse.)
- Children, stepchildren and children of the putative spouse
- Minors who have resided in the household for six months and are partially supported by the decedent
- Parents if they are supported by the decedent
- Siblings if they received support from the decedent
Receiving Wrongful Death Settlements
If a wrongful death claim is successful, the insurer might pay damages in full or in increments. A lump sum payout is common. Incremental or structured settlements are often used to deal with the loss of income over the long term.
Are Wrongful Death Damages Taxable?
Usually, wrongful death damages are not considered taxable income since they result from a claim that is compensation for personal injuries. It is best to talk to your tax preparer or accountant since tax-related rules frequently change.
Win a Fair Settlement with a Wrongful Death Lawyer
David Azizi works hard to help clients after a negligent, violent or reckless entity takes a loved one from them. He understands their pain and grief and the family’s need for justice. A wrongful death claim can help the family in several ways. For instance, it can show the at-fault party their lack of responsibility and care for others and let the family deal with their pain without worrying about financial matters.
David understands that most clients rely on him to explain the nuances of a wrongful death lawsuit, and he takes this duty seriously. He will look over your situation in a free case review and tell you your options going forward. He believes that many families want justice for their loved ones’ sudden death.
Call David at (800) 991-5292 to set up a time to meet either in person, on a virtual call or on the phone. You’ll see for yourself why the rating service company for lawyers, Super Lawyers, calls David one of the top personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles.