6 Things You Need to Know When Settling a Wrongful Death Claim

‘Wrongful death’ refers to the death of a person caused by the irresponsibility or the deliberate harm of others. Wrongful death claims can be settled in court but many of these cases never reach trial. Defendants may suggest negotiating outside of court in order to keep their reputation intact and avoid unwanted publicity, whilst on the other hand, plaintiffs may want to settle things quickly to move on with their lives.

If you are in a situation where you are involved in a wrongful death claim, it can be extremely emotionally overwhelming, but don’t worry, you are not alone. 

This article is a guide to 6 things you need to know about when settling a wrongful death claim.

1. Wrongful Death Attorneys

Regardless of how a wrongful death case is settled, getting help from a wrongful death attorney is always advisable when filing a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death lawyers will use all their knowledge and experience to maximize your wrongful death settlement, whilst also helping you to make the best decision possibles during a highly emotional time. Statistics have proven that cases filed with legal representation recover significantly more in terms of compensation than cases filed without the help of an experienced attorney.

2. Settlement Options

A case may be settled one of two ways without litigation:

The first is mediation which is the meetings of the two parties with a mediator who will listen to both parties’ arguments and will offer advice to each side on how the case should be settled and whether any money needs to be paid.

The second is arbitration which is the meetings of the 2 parties with an arbitrator. After listening to both sides of the story and meeting with both the plaintiff and defendant a ruling will be made by the arbitrator based on the details and information. Both parties have the right to protest if the ruling is not satisfactory for both and will therefore not be binding. This results in a nonbinding arbitration in which they will have to meet again to settle the case.

Both mediation and arbitration are costly alternatives to litigation, but are usually preferable to a long drawn out trial in terms of cost-effectiveness and the amount of time necessary to come to an agreement.

3. Typical Wrongful Death Compensation

Unfortunately, the most common question concerning wrongful death compensation does not have a clear answer, as every case is unique. The amount of compensation is decided based on various factors, including pain and suffering, medical and funeral costs, lost wages, lost benefits, loss of consortium and loss of inheritance.

Calculating these economic losses is not an easy task since no one can predict the future, but you can at least estimate the acceptable amount of financial recompense by examining age, education, experience, and work history.

4. The Strength of the Case

The decision of the parties involved in a wrongful death claim settlement depends on many factors, but the most important one is their belief on how strong the case is against them. If the parties understand that they have a good chance of getting a favorable judgement, they might be a bit more easy-going with a swift and efficient approach, and may be willing to offer or accept a certain amount without a long drawn out process.

5. Length of Proceedings

As with any other settlement, wrongful death claim ones are not pleasant for the parties involved, but with certain commitments from both sides, the process can be smooth-sailing and settlements outside of court will typically be resolved more quickly than court proceedings. However, cases which take multiple years to settle are not unheard of, but for all parties involved to try and move on with their lives, these kinds of cases should be avoided at all costs. 

6. Taxability

According to the IRS , the settlement amount you receive in a wrongful death claim remains excluded from federal and state taxes in general. However, under certain circumstances, compensatory damages and punitive damages might be taxable to some extent. To avoid future troubles, it is very important that you discuss this matter with your attorney or tax professional to determine how the law applies to your specific situation, and figure out a suitable solution.

Having to deal with the loss of your loved ones is already a terrible experience and can be especially hard-hitting when it comes out of the blue. However, so much trouble and sadness can be mitigated with the right approach to settling a wrongful death claim. By understanding the factors laid out in this article, you will be able to handle the situation in the most effective way possible.

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