Types of Wrongful Death Settlements
Wrongful death settlements are paid out in one of two ways:
- Lump Sum
- Structured Settlement
Lump sum settlements mean that the money is paid out all at once, while structured settlements provide the deceased's loved ones regular payments over time. In this case, the parties in the lawsuit must agree on how the settlement will be paid.
If you lost a family member due to another party’s negligent or intentional actions, you may be able to get compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. In a successful wrongful death claim, the person or entity that caused the death (or their insurer) pays the survivors of the person who died. There are a wide variety of accidents and other incidents that can result in wrongful death. So every case is unique when it comes to exactly who pays for a wrongful death lawsuit. Individuals, companies, and organizations can be held liable in wrongful death claims and made to pay survivors.
Who Pays Wrongful Death Settlements?
In the majority of cases, settlements are paid by the insurance companies of the liable party. If a negligent driver caused the accident, for example, the driver’s auto liability coverage would pay for the settlement up to policy limits. If your losses from your loved one’s death go beyond insurance policy limits, or if the at-fault person doesn’t have insurance, the individual himself is responsible for paying. They may have wages that can be garnished or assets that can be taken. But there are often cases where people who cause a wrongful death simply don’t have the money to pay, making it hard to collect. For this reason, it’s important to identify all parties who may have potentially contributed to the accident in which your loved one died. If there is more than one party that can be held liable, there is a better chance of getting a full settlement or award.
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Settlement?
Spouses, children, and parents of the person who died can file wrongful death lawsuits in Texas. They may file as a group or individually. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, and other relatives aren’t eligible to file. If eligible survivors don’t file, the personal representative of the deceased may file on behalf of the estate.
How is the Money Split Amongst Survivors?
The way the money is split amongst survivors depends on different factors. When cases settle outside of trial, if all beneficiaries are adults and are in agreement, they can determine amongst themselves how the money will be divided. If minor children are involved, the court may appoint someone to represent the child’s interests. When cases go to trial and result in jury awards, juries decide how the money will be split up.
What Are The Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
Damages, or losses, in wrongful death lawsuits can include payment for things such as:
- Medical bills for treatment of injuries before the person died
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering the deceased experienced
- Loss of income if the person was a provider
- Loss of future inheritance
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of guidance and support.
What damages you ask for in a wrongful death claim depends upon your specific losses.
Proving Liability in Wrongful Death Cases
Proving liability in wrongful death cases is a complex process. Evidence must be gathered that shows that the at-fault party had a “duty of care” to the victim and violated that duty, which led to the death. The type of evidence needed will depend on the circumstances of the death.
For example, with car accidents, drivers have a duty to drive safely and not negligently cause crashes. To prove that a duty of care was violated in a car accident case, a wrongful death attorney might do the following:
- Interview eyewitnesses to accidents
- Review photos of the accident scene
- Examine police reports
- Speak to responding officers
- Visit the accident scene
- Review medical reports related to the victim’s injuries
- Call upon expert witnesses such as traffic safety engineers and accident reconstruction professionals
- Examine the background of the at-fault party.
About the Texas Comparative Negligence Rule
It’s also important to know that Texas follows a comparative negligence rule. This means that if it’s found during the claim process that your deceased family member shared any fault for their accident, a jury award would be reduced by their percentage of fault. Even when insurers are willing to settle outside of court, they may take your family member’s percentage of fault into account in making a settlement offer, so it’s important that you work with a lawyer who is experienced in proving wrongful death claims.
Call Our West Texas Injury Attorneys at Hanna Allen, PLLC
Accidental injuries are a leading cause of death in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’ve tragically lost a family member to a negligent accident, or to intentional wrongdoing, and are thinking about a lawsuit, you probably have many questions. Our West Texas law firm provides free consultations so that clients can understand their options when they have legal concerns.
To schedule a consultation about your wrongful death case with a knowledgeable and compassionate attorney, call us today at 432-220-2649 or contact us online. We have extensive experience successfully helping survivors in wrongful death claims.