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A wrongful death adds feelings of outrage and injustice to the already overwhelming pain of a life lost. We at Smith Law Center have compiled some basic answers to the most common questions clients have regarding wrongful death. Who can file for wrongful death? How much is the average wrongful death settlement? How are wrongful death settlements paid out?

If you’re ready to speak to a wrongful death lawyer, call us directly at (757) 244-7000 with your specific questions. Read on for general advice regarding wrongful death settlements and how they work.

A man decides to call a wrongful death attorney.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Under the law, wrongful death lawsuits are civil actions (as opposed to criminal) which seek damages (both economic and non-economic) against a person or entity for causing a death that should not have happened.

Wrongful deaths can occur in medical settings, in vehicular collisions, on the job, on the street, in retail establishments, or essentially anywhere that humans may tread. When someone in your life dies because something went wrong that shouldn’t have, you may consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

One of the first questions people ask when considering legal redress is: Will a wrongful death lawsuit be worth it? We at Smith Law Center have compiled general answers here. However, for specific questions regarding your circumstances, we encourage you to call us at (757) 244-7000 or contact us online for a free consultation as soon as possible, because time is likely of the essence.

The Basics Regarding Wrongful Death Settlements

To be clear up front: there is no average wrongful death settlement or payout. This is because each wrongful death is treated with the gravity it deserves in a legal setting, and is decided (literally) on a case-by-case basis. Understanding the basics laid out here may help you understand what is at stake.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?

This varies state-to-state in the U.S., but across the board, parents, spouses, and surviving children always have the right to pursue justice for a deceased child, partner, or parent. In some areas, distant relatives (like grandparents) or non-familial financial dependents may also have standing to file a wrongful death claim.

Contact a lawyer at Smith Law Center at (757) 244-7000 if you have questions about your standing to file suit in a case of wrongful death.

How Much Can You Get In a Wrongful Death Suit?

Once more, how much you can get in a wrongful death suit is not a question that can be answered generally. Every wrongful death case, just like every life lost, is unique and must be considered in context. For specific questions, contact Smith Law Center directly with your concerns. In the meantime, basic elements regarding wrongful death payouts and settlements are as follows:

  • Medical expenses: These costs may be reimbursed or the debts accounted for in cases of medical malpractice, or in cases where the injury that led to wrongful death involved medical care.
  • Funeral and burial costs: Whether your loved one’s final wishes involved cremation, a funeral, a natural burial, or were never specified and now it’s up to you to honor them as best you know how, every option costs time and money to accomplish. These are costs that would be considered in a wrongful death settlement.
  • Estate costs: Closing out someone’s home, their belongings, and all their financial ties and debts after death can be a long, stressful process. In cases of wrongful death, it’s acknowledged that these tasks are the necessary result of an unnecessary loss of life. A settlement or verdict in your favor may also account for your time and attorneys’ fees in settling an estate.
  • Loss of income/benefits: The loss of income and work-related benefits like health insurance or pensions may be calculated for those lost at the start of their career, during their working years, or after retirement. Experienced wrongful death attorneys like we at Smith Law Center know how to present such losses in order to get you full consideration under the law.
  • Punitive damages: Since wrongful death settlements by definition declare that someone has behaved irresponsibly, recklessly, or maliciously, a judge may charge the culpable party punitive or “punishment” damages. These may be awarded to you in addition to the other costs you’re owed.
  • Pain and suffering: Wrongful deaths often cause mental and emotional anguish, loss of care from a spouse or parent, stress, sorrow, anger, and confusion or chaos in the lives of surviving loved ones. An experienced attorney is needed to present these human losses in a legal framework.

There are many factors that inform a wrongful death settlement amount, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all average. Call Smith Law Center at (757) 244-7000 to discuss your unique circumstances.

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?

Once it’s been decided that you’re owed compensation after a wrongful death, methods of payout may matter greatly. Will you get a lump sum? Will it be a payment plan? What about taxes?

Here are the most common wrongful death payout options:

  • Lump sum: When settling to avoid a lawsuit, it is common to receive one lump sum for the full payout of the settlement. This can be crucial for families or surviving loved ones who may be in debt, treading water financially, or require the monetary means to put the person they’ve lost fully to rest. This provides a great amount of flexibility, and could mean a fresh start for a healing heart.
  • Structured settlement: Structured payouts are less flexible than a lump sum payment, but they can serve to help replace lost streams of income, and provide a reliable source of support over a long period of time. An experienced wrongful death attorney will help you understand the payment structure, and make it clear that (once agreed to) these types of settlements are difficult to alter in frequency or amount after the fact.

Regarding taxes on wrongful death settlements: the IRS generally does not tax your wrongful death lawsuit settlement or damages award. In some rare circumstances, portions may be taxed if, for example, they’re meant to repay medical costs that were deducted from your taxable income in previous years.

Again, a qualified and attentive attorney like the legal minds at Smith Law Center will make sure you understand your settlement fully before you agree to it.

There are many factors that inform a wrongful death settlement amount, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all average. Call Smith Law Center at (757) 244-7000 to discuss your unique circumstances.

Contact Wrongful Death Lawyers at Smith Law Center

Smith Law Center is a family-run law firm with a long history of achieving successful case results for our clients and their loved ones. If you’ve suffered a wrongful death loss, it’s important to obtain legal representation as soon as possible. A statute of limitation may apply to your circumstances, which limits the window of time you have to pursue legal options. Similarly, if too much time passes, important evidence may be lost or hidden before it can be secured by your legal advocates.

Refer to our list of Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions for more information, and call us at (757) 244-7000 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation at your earliest convenience. We are here to help the families and loved ones of wrongful death victims seek justice.

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