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How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?

Posted in Wrongful Death on February 25, 2021

Families pursue wrongful death claims for many important reasons, such as justice, closure and holding a wrongdoer accountable. A wrongful death lawsuit in Dallas can also provide financial compensation to surviving family members, enabling them to pay related debts and have greater financial stability in the future. If a claim succeeds, the family can receive a wrongful death settlement from the insurance carrier of the at-fault party.

What Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Include?

Holding a person or entity financially responsible for causing a fatal injury in Texas can lead to a settlement check that covers many economic and noneconomic damages. Surviving family members and the estate can recover financial compensation for losses such as:

  • Reasonable funeral and burial costs
  • Medical bills from the decedent’s final injury
  • Loss of the loved one’s financial support
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Property damage caused by the accident
  • The decedent’s pain and suffering
  • The family’s mental anguish
  • Loss of the loved one’s love, companionship and guidance

The value of a wrongful death settlement or judgment award will depend on the unique circumstances of the case. A deceased person’s age at the time of death, average income, the insurance coverage available, the number of dependents and many other factors can impact a settlement amount.

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?

Lump-Sum vs. Structured Settlement

There are two types of settlements: a lump sum payment and a structured settlement. A lump sum means the full amount of the settlement is paid out at once, giving the deceased person’s estate or beneficiaries a single lump-sum payment. The family can use the money right away to pay for funeral and burial costs, as well as medical bills and legal fees.

With a structured settlement, the deceased person’s estate receives the settlement a portion at a time over several weeks. Ongoing payments given to surviving family members can provide continuous support for a longer length of time after the loved one’s death. However, a structured settlement could make it more difficult to pay large bills upfront.

How Long Does it Take to Receive a Wrongful Death Settlement Check?

The answer to this question depends on the facts and circumstances of your case. Some wrongful death settlements are achieved in only a matter of months if there are no complications. Others take a year or longer if they go to trial. Your timeline will depend on the complexity of the wrongful death case, as well as if you encounter any challenges that add time to the settlement.

Who Receives the Money?

Once an insurance company releases a settlement check, the money will go to surviving loved ones, according to Texas law. A settlement will be distributed among beneficiaries according to the family’s wishes or the laws of intestate succession. In general, parties that can make a claim to wrongful death settlement include a surviving spouse, children and parents. The deceased person’s estate may also receive part of a settlement to pay off any remaining debts.

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on a Wrongful Death Settlement?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, a family typically does not have to pay taxes on a wrongful death settlement. Since settlements arise from physical injuries or illnesses, they are nontaxable. However, if the settlement includes a portion for medical bills that you deducted on your taxes in a previous year, a portion for emotional distress or a portion for punitive damages, your family may have to pay taxes on that portion.

How a Lawyer Can Help With a Wrongful Death Settlement

It is important to work with an attorney for a wrongful death settlement. With rare exceptions, once you accept a settlement and decide how you wish to receive it, you cannot change the terms of the agreement. A lawyer can make sure you receive a fair amount and choose the best payout type for your situation. A lawyer can also help you organize your settlement for tax purposes. Learn more about wrongful death settlements by consulting with an attorney.