How Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Work?

No one should have to go through the pain of losing a loved one. The agony may be worse if the death was avoidable but caused by negligence. According to recent statistics, Florida has a very high rate of wrongful deaths due to negligence. 

Family members are often left to grieve after a tragic and wrongful death. Financial strain from unexpected medical costs or expenses, a loss of household income, or the absence of the deceased’s support and direction can add an emotional burden to the mental anguish of bereavement.

If your loved one wrongfully died in an avoidable accident, you may be able to seek compensation. Contact a Port St. Lucie wrongful death lawyer for advice on how to seek compensation and hold the responsible party accountable. 

Wrongful death laws help compensate surviving loved ones for economic and psychological losses. Keep reading to learn more about wrongful death settlements and verdicts. 

What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?

As defined by the Florida Wrongful Death Act, a “wrongful” death occurs due to a “wrongful act, negligence, breach of contract, or default.” The circumstances around the case must be enough to be the basis of a personal injury had the deceased survived. 

If a loved one dies in such circumstances, a wrongful death claim might be filed by a family member on behalf of the deceased.

Personal representatives can pursue wrongful death cases in civil court on behalf of the deceased person’s heirs and family members. According to the wrongful death statute, a family can designate a personal representative to initiate a lawsuit. In case there is a last will, the personal representative may also serve as the estate’s executor or an administrator.

The courts will choose a representative if no executor or administrator is named in the will. Those who are entitled to receive compensation will receive their share of the settlement if the case is won. 

Family members who can file a wrongful death suit include: 

  • The spouse of the deceased.
  • The children of the departed.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, the dead person’s adult children.
  • If the deceased was a mother, her children that were born out of wedlock. 
  • If the deceased is their father, children he had formally claimed or financially supported may also be eligible to recover.
  • Minor children born after a parent’s death are entitled same compensation as other minor children.
  • If the deceased person was under 25, their parents are eligible for compensation.
  • Other blood relatives and adoptive siblings who were dependent on the deceased entirely or partially for sustenance.
  • The decedent’s estate.

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Distributed?

According to state law, wrongful death awards and settlements in Florida must be divided fairly and equitably. A court will usually uphold an agreement reached between adult survivors about the distribution of a settlement or award, with the following exceptions:

  • To cover their needs until they attain legal adulthood, minor children should receive a sizeable sum of money. In many cases, a guardian will be appointed to handle cash disbursement until the minor becomes an adult.
  • Adults who were wholly reliant on the deceased for financial support receive the same priority as minor children. A good example is a disabled adult or parent with illnesses like dementia.
  • The estate’s share of any settlement or award will be reduced by the amount of any liens against the estate. Restitution paid out to surviving individuals is not subject to liens.
  • The court must approve any settlement reached before filing a wrongful death action, especially if the money is being collected on behalf of underage children as part of a settlement.
  • A court may appoint an administrator ad litem when a spouse is also the decedent’s personal representative. If other survivors are entitled to compensation, the administrator’s job is to ensure they get their fair share.
  • The personal representative usually pays the attorneys’ expenses out of the survivors’ and estate’s share. Fees are generally proportional to the participant’s share of the total settlement value.

Taxes on Wrongful Death Claims 

Compensation for bodily harm or illness is not subject to federal income taxation. It is unnecessary to report compensation to the IRS as income since the money is not subject to income tax. Compensatory damages are not taxable. Lost wages, medical expenses, and other non-monetary rewards are considered compensatory damages for surviving family members.

On the other hand, punitive damages paid in wrongful death cases may be taxable. Your settlement or award may be subject to taxes, but a seasoned wrongful death lawyer can help you figure out how much. 

Lost net accumulations and damages paid to the estate are subject to taxation. Taxes the decedent would have spent on estate earnings in life are also applicable.

Damages You Can Pursue in a Wrongful Death Case

Damage awards in wrongful death cases are typically proportional to the plaintiff’s degree of familial connection to the decedent. The following are examples of potential compensation for surviving loved ones:

  • The surviving spouse may file a claim for damages, such as loss of financial support and services. Loss of the deceased’s company or pain and suffering may also be compensable damages.
  • In the event of a death, a parent’s minor children and those under 25 are eligible for the same benefits as a spouse. They can also file a claim for lost parental supervision and companionship since the date of death.
  • In the absence of a spouse or minor children, an adult child may seek the same damages as a spouse or minor child.
  • Damages for emotional distress can be awarded to the parents of a deceased child younger than 25.
  • The deceased’s estate may be able to recoup any lost income or future net accumulations. The estate may also be reimbursed for final expenses such as a funeral and burial.
  • Punitive damages are available when the defendant’s behavior was extremely reckless or malicious. The purpose of awarding punitive damages is to dissuade the defendant from engaging in the underlying conduct that resulted in the death.

Seek Legal Representation

If you’ve lost a loved one because of someone else’s wrongdoing or negligence, we can help you seek the money you need to get through this tough time. 

Consult an experienced wrongful death attorney to help file a wrongful death claim in Port St. Lucie, Florida. 

In the wake of a tragic loss, families across the state turn to the attorneys Frankl Kominsky Injury Lawyers. Our compassionate attorneys have successfully represented clients from varying localities in Florida. 

For clarification about wrongful death laws and claims, please call (561) 800-8000 or fill out our online contact form.

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