Who Gets the Money From a Wrongful Death Settlement?
A wrongful death claim is meant to compensate the family for what they have lost after a family member has died. There is always an open question about who gets the money in a wrongful death case.
The answer is that it depends on the laws in the state where you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit. In Illinois, the answer is a little more restrictive than it is in other states.
You should check with a wrongful death lawyer to determine whether you are one of the eligible family members who can receive compensation.
The Illinois Wrongful Death Law
Family members are allowed to file legal action against the at fault party when their negligence or intentional act has killed their loved one.
The law requires that the parties involved who are found responsible must compensate survivors in the family.
Under state law, families have two years from the date that their family member died to file a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Cases Are Not Just From Negligence
Most wrongful death cases will result from an instance in which there was some sort of carelessness or negligence.
They could include:
In addition, families can file a wrongful death case after a reckless or intentional act, such as manslaughter or homicide.
One common example of a wrongful death lawsuit is a claim brought after a DUI accident.
How Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Work?
However, this is a personal injury case where the family itself is the victim. They have suffered their own damages from the wrongful death.
This is their cause of action on behalf of what has happened to themselves as a result of losing their loved one. This is a payment for the life of the deceased person and their value as it relates to the family.
The surviving family will file a lawsuit on behalf of themselves against the responsible party. They may choose to negotiate with the insurance company or file a lawsuit directly in court.
What Is Included in Wrongful Death Settlements?
Wrongful death settlements address the family's harm that they have suffered, as opposed to that suffered by the deceased person themselves.
These damages could include:
- Lost earnings that the deceased person would have earned while they were working
- The family's grief and trauma at losing their loved one
- Compensation for the loss of the loved one's guidance, support, love and closeness
- Loss of consortium for the spouse
Not All Surviving Family Members Can Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The division of a wrongful death settlement is slightly different in Illinois. In many states, the surviving spouse, surviving parents and minor children can share in the recovery.
There would usually be one wrongful death case (or multiple lawsuits consolidated into one case).
In these states, the hope would be that the family would decide how to divide the settlement between them. If not, the court would decide how the wrongful death settlement would be split.
In Illinois, the law does not work the same way. The Illinois Wrongful Death Act states that surviving spouses and next of kin can share in the proceeds of a wrongful death claim.
Who Is the Next of Kin in a Wrongful Death Case?
Of course, the surviving spouse is very clear. The question is who may legally qualify as the next of kin in wrongful death lawsuits. This is where it gets complicated for wrongful death claims.
If the decedent has a surviving spouse and children, these are the next of kin. This is true whether there are minor or adult children. If there are children, then the parents cannot recover financially for the death of their child.
Otherwise, the definition of "next of kin" in the Illinois Probate Act is what decides who may recover in a wrongful death settlement. Here, next of kin is defined as blood relatives, including parents and siblings.
This definition could result in people getting money who may not have had a close relationship with the deceased.
If there was no spouse or children, an estranged blood relative could even end up recovering for wrongful death solely by virtue of being a blood relative and next of kin.
The Personal Representative May Not Always Recover
A personal representative is one that manages the estate. This is not always going to be the person who is in line to recover for a wrongful death claim. For example, the personal representative could be a brother, when there is already a spouse and surviving children.
In that case, even though the sibling could be named in the will, they would not share in the proceeds of the wrongful death case./
What About the Surviving Parents?
This depends on whether they are considered the next of kin. If there are no children, the parents may be able to recover damages themselves. However, this is not always the case.
Usually, the next of kin is the spouse and the deceased person's children. Even if the surviving parents are able to recover, they may not get a lot of money based on how the court divides the settlement.
How a Wrongful Death Claim Is Divided
In Illinois, the wrongful death settlement is not divided equally between everyone who has a legal ability to receive money. The court will hold its own hearing about how to divide the settlement proceeds.
The court is looking to understand how each of the people relied on the deceased for support.
The judge will try to come up with numbers to approximate the reliance on the deceased for each person who can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit and will then try to divide the proceeds accordingly.
A Survival Claim Belongs to the Deceased Person's Estate
A survival action is different from a wrongful death suit. The survival action belongs to the estate of the deceased person. The proceeds are divided in accordance with the terms of the will.
If there are people who are beneficiaries of the will who are not listed in the wrongful death law, they can still be paid.
Survival actions will compensate the estate for how the deceased person suffered between the time of their injury and the person's death.
This can include the following:
- Medical expenses to treat the injuries (all medical care between the time of injury and death is part of the settlement)
- Funeral costs and burial expenses
- The pain and suffering that the deceased person endured before they died
- Lost wages between the time of the injury and death
Punitive damages are not included in wrongful death claims, but they can be part of survival actions.
However, before the proceeds of the survival action are paid, the estate may need to pay debts to creditors who have made claims.
How a Wrongful Death Attorney Helps Your Family
When you contact a personal injury law firm, the experienced wrongful death attorney will help your family in a number of ways. First, a wrongful death settlement depends on establishing the cause of the accident.
Wrongful death cases are like any other personal injury lawsuit in that you need to prove someone else's negligence.
Then, you must obtain a fair settlement for your family's damages. To recover compensation, your attorney would need to either negotiate with the insurance company or file a wrongful death case.
You would need to seek the right amount of money to pay for your losses and provide financial support.
How Are Wrongful Death Lawsuits Paid?
A wrongful death settlement will work like any other personal injury settlement in how it is paid. The money will be placed in an escrow account. The lawyer's fees will be deducted and paid to the lawyer.
Then, the money will be distributed to each person that has a legal entitlement to it.
If the minor children are under 18, you should make arrangements to have this money held in trust for them, and you may even want to have rules that govern how the money is used once they are adults, so they do not have a sudden influx of money.
We Make Sure That Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Are Enough
When you are seeking compensation for the death of a loved one, do not worry about the average settlement. Instead, you should be concerned with what your family has lost and the money that you need.
Losing the deceased person left a large hole in your family's finances that need to be filled.
Our attorneys will fight to ensure that you fully recover for the lost financial support. Money in a wrongful death case is vital to your family's future, especially after you have lost a loved one who provides.
Call an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer
Experienced wrongful death lawyers can help when you are dealing with a loved one's death. Call the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers toll free at (888) 424-5757 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
We can help you file a personal injury lawsuit to recover the wrongful death damages that your family has suffered. Call us for a free consultation as you seek to understand how much money your family can recover for wrongful death.
We will provide you with legal advice about how to file wrongful death lawsuits.