Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Settlement?

August 4, 2023

If you’ve lost a family member through another party’s negligent act, you might be thinking about a wrongful death lawsuit. You might also be wondering: “Who gets the money in a wrongful death settlement?” It’s okay to think about these things. Money worries don’t go away when someone dies. In fact, they may grow more troublesome if your family member was a breadwinner. A wrongful death lawsuit might be the only way to escape financial ruin after the loss of a loved one. But that only helps if you are eligible to file a lawsuit and get the money from it.

How Are Wrongful Death Lawsuits Paid Out?

In Pennsylvania, surviving spouses, children and parents can get money in wrongful death settlements. Siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other relatives cannot be parties to claims. Wrongful death lawsuits are paid out based on the survivors the deceased person left. This is true even if they were dependent on the deceased. For example:

  • If the deceased person was married but did not have children or parents, everything goes to the spouse.
  • If there were children but no spouse, the entire settlement will be divided equally among them. If there are surviving parents, but no spouse or children, the parents will share the money equally.
  • If the person’s spouse and children survived them, the spouse will get the first $30,000. They will also get half of the settlement that remains. The other half will be divided equally between the children. In cases where there is a spouse and parents but no children, the same pay-out exists. The spouse gets the first $30,000 and half of the remaining settlement. The parents divide the other half.

Settlements in wrongful death lawsuits are paid directly to survivors, not to the estate, as long as they are filed within two years of the wrongful death. They are not subject to inheritance, estate or income taxes.

Survival Actions

Survival actions are similar to wrongful death lawsuits in many ways. When you file a survival action, you are seeking damages for similar expenses and losses caused by a fatal accident or injury. However, there are two important differences.

First, a survival action seeks damages for expenses and losses that are incurred from the moment the injury happened until the time the person died. While that time is negligible for most fatal injuries, sometimes it can represent weeks, months, or years.

Second, the litigants in a survival action aren’t just limited to spouses, children, and parents. Anyone who is a beneficiary of the deceased may file this type of lawsuit. The purpose of this lawsuit is to recover the lost inheritance that was spent by the deceased’s estate due to the injury or accident. If the deceased had lived, they would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit. Instead, their heirs can file a survival action lawsuit. Unlike in a wrongful death lawsuit, this compensation is subject to inheritance, estate, or income tax laws. This action must be filed with the court within two years of the death, just like a wrongful death lawsuit.

Damages You Might Get in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

After a loved one dies, their dependents often face financial hardship. Most of that financial cost can be recovered from a wrongful death lawsuit. Here are the kinds of damages you might get if your wrongful death lawsuit is successful:

  • Hospital and medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Estate administration expenses
  • Loss of the decedent’s expected income
  • Loss of inheritance the deceased might have left had they lived
  • Lost comfort, support and guidance from the deceased
  • Loss of love and companionship
  • Punitive damages in cases of severe negligence or wrongdoing.

The damages awarded in a claim depend upon the facts of the case. An experienced wrongful death attorney can review your case and advise you about what damages you might ask for.

How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help

Unfortunately, most people don’t prepare for the possibility of dying unexpectedly. Even people who have a will usually haven’t made any other preparations for their death. This leaves a lot of work for people who are in mourning. A wrongful death attorney from a good law firm will not only help you get the compensation you deserve but will also help you find assistance with everything you need to do after the unexpected death of a loved one.

This assistance doesn’t mean anything without compensation for the loss of your loved one. And that is the main goal of a wrongful death lawyer. They will investigate how your loved one died and uncover any evidence of negligence. Some of the more common examples of negligence are:

  • Drunk driving or reckless driving that resulted in a fatal car accident
  • Poor property maintenance that resulted in a fatal slip and fall accident
  • Medical malpractice
  • Nursing home abuse or neglect.

Once your attorney has collected enough evidence, they will file a lawsuit for you. This will involve a lot of back-and-forth with the lawyers and the insurance company of the responsible party. Fortunately, you don’t have to deal with any of that. Your attorney will do all of the tedious work while giving you space to mourn. The goal of any wrongful death attorney is to get you as much money as possible without intruding on your grief.

Our Understanding Philadelphia Attorneys Are Here For You

When you are grieving over your loved one’s loss, worrying about who gets the money in a wrongful death settlement is probably not the first thing on your mind. But when you have lost the love and support of a family member due to another’s negligence, a wrongful death suit can be an important consideration.

Our skilled attorneys at Wapner Newman will answer all your questions surrounding a wrongful death lawsuit and how settlements work. Call our Pennsylvania law office at (215) 569-0900 to schedule a free consultation. We understand what you are going through. We will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve for the loss of your loved one.