A death in the family is always difficult. A loved one’s death caused by another party’s carelessness is an especially painful experience for friends and close relatives. After providing evidence that the victim’s death resulted from negligence, the next step is the settlement division. As per the law, surviving family members may have the right to pursue justice, but not all of them receive the same compensation.
Additionally, the settlement can be divided in different ways, depending on the decedent’s state of residence. Some states may give 100% compensation to the surviving spouse. The surviving child and spouse may get an even split. However, suppose the decedent had a will of their final wishes on their properties’ disbursement; these wishes must be followed. Continue reading for more information about the division of wrongful death settlement.
The Eligible Parties
Note that the mere fact of being related or close to a wrongful death victim doesn’t qualify you for a share of the compensation. In most states, the beneficiaries of a wrongful death settlement may only include:
- The surviving spouse
- The children
- The personal estate representative/successor in interest
- Household members who relied on the decedent
Division of Wrongful Death Proceeds
Many cases involving wrongful death occurrences usually settle out of court when family members agree on a settlement offer. They rely on a legal expert’s experience based on decisions made by juries in similar cases. Some of the factors considered include:
- Whether all beneficiaries are adults and agree on a fair division
- Whether minors are involved
- Disagreement within parties who will let their lawyers suggest a solution
- Chances of disagreements that may lead to trial
However, if both parties cannot agree on dividing the settlement, they will have to go on trial. Consequently, each party will hire an attorney to represent their interests in the claim. The complainant then files a lawsuit against the negligent party who caused the death. A jury decides the amount to be paid to the plaintiff and how much each family member should receive.
If the decedent had minors, the court appoints a guardian ad litem as the children’s representative. The ad litem ensures that the children’s rights are fully represented. They also investigate the settlement’s terms to ensure that the other parties didn’t act against the children’s best interests.
For instance, if a single parent leaves behind two kids and their grandparents, both parties have a claim. However, the ad litem may raise the alarm if they find out that the grandparents had a 50% share of the settlement. It can’t be reasonable to say that the grandparents have the same financial hardships after losing a grown child as the minors who lost their parents.
Children are seen to have more needs by the courts; thus, the authorities always have the final say where minors are beneficiaries in cases of wrongful death. However, the court only makes sure that every party plays by the rules and doesn’t work towards unfairly winning the case.
Why You Need an Attorney in Wrongful Death Claims
Filing for a wrongful death settlement can be a complex process, especially when dealing with many beneficiaries claiming part of the compensation. An experienced lawyer will protect your rights and ensure fair negotiations. As a result, you are assured to get a full settlement for the wrongful death.
If your family member’s death resulted from negligence, you deserve a settlement from the responsible party. In case many individuals are involved, everyone’s interests should be protected to get a fair share from spouses, minors, grandparents, and more.
Michelle Eddy is a staunch consumer advocate, fresh libertarian convert, and proud mother of three. Besides her legal career, she enjoys blogging about topics related to her expertise and life experiences, like parenting, child development, education, and law. In her writings, Michelle places emphasis on helping people to fight for their rights. She also works as a collaborative editor for Laborde Earles Law Firm. Her favorite quote is: “Sir, we are outnumbered 10 to 1″. “Then, it is a fair fight”.