Wrongful Death Settlements

What's In This Article

If you have lost a loved one in a car accident or other accident that was caused by someone else, you are facing a devastating personal and financial loss. People in your situation may choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover financial damages from the negligent party.

This article contains details about wrongful death lawsuits and settlements to provide you with the information needed to decide if filing a lawsuit is an option for you.

Wrongful Death Settlement Overview

A wrongful death lawsuit is a personal injury liability action that sues for money damages from the party or entity whose negligence led to the death of another person. A wrongful death claim can be made against any person or company that was negligent and caused a death, including car drivers, medical professionals and businesses. Calculating the amount of damages for a wrongful death lawsuit car accident is a complex process that requires the expertise of personal injury attorneys, financial professionals and economists.

If a wrongful death action is decided by an insurance settlement, the average settlement amount varies a great deal. Cases that go to trial can either result in a dismissal or damages in various amounts. It is critical to have your wrongful death case examined carefully by a qualified attorney to determine if it is better to settle or to go to trial. This largely comes down to determining negligence. If the other party clearly was negligent, it may be beneficial to go to trial; if, however negligence is not easy to prove, settling the car accident through insurance could be preferable.

Who May Sue for Wrongful Death

A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the representative of any survivors who have suffered financial damages form the loss. These people are known in legal terms as ‘real parties in interest.’ This representative normally is the executor of the estate of the deceased. Who the ‘real parties in interest’ are will depend upon the state. The most common people who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit are:

  • Immediate members of the family, such as spouses, children and unmarried children.
  • Life partners, putative spouses and financial dependents. This category includes any people who were financially dependent upon the person. A putative spouse is a person who had a strong, good faith belief that they were married to the person.
  • Distant family may be allowed in some states, such as brothers, sisters or grandparents.
  • All who are suffering financially. Some jurisdictions will let all people who are suffering financially to sue, even if they are not directly related by marriage or blood.
  • Parents of the fetus that is deceased. Some jurisdictions allow the beneficiaries to sue based upon the wrongful death of a fetus.

Check with your personal injury attorney to determine who can file suit in your state.

Who Can Be Sued For Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death action may be filed against various people, companies, government entities and company employees. For instance, in a car accident with a poorly paved and marked road and a drunk driver, it is possible for a lawsuit to be filed against the following parties:

  • The drunk driver who was driving the vehicle that caused the fatal accident
  • The builder, designer or contractor who was responsible for creating the road and/or maintaining it
  • The manufacturer or distributor of part of the vehicle that failed and led to the death
  • A person or business that sold or gave alcohol to the drunk person who caused the accident
  • The owner of the business where the drinks were served to the driver

It is possible that a certain person or government agency could be immune from a legal action for wrongful death. This would mean that damages cannot be recovered from these individuals or entities. Who may get immunity will vary by jurisdiction. In some states, a government agency or employees of that agency may not be able to be sued for wrongful death.

How Much Can I Expect To Receive in a Wrongful Death Car Accident Settlement?

A common question is how much the ‘average’ settlement or jury verdict is for a wrongful death car accident case. No two cases are the same, so coming up with an average is impossible. We do highlight some wrongful death compensation examples later on this page to give you a few ideas, but your settlement or verdict amount could be more or less.

The amount of wrongful death settlement you can expect depends on several factors that we highlight on this page.

How do you put a monetary value on the life of a human being? This is difficult, but there are several factors that are considered to arrive at a rough settlement figure:

  • How old the deceased was: A younger person would typically see a higher settlement amount because of their longer expected life.
  • The earning capacity of the deceased: A person who was an attorney earning $200,000 per year may see a higher settlement amount than a truck driver earning $45,000 per year.
  • The health of the deceased: A person in good health would be expected to live longer than a person with cancer.
  • The income of the person at their time of death.
  • Age and circumstances of dependents: A person who has left behind young children could realize a larger settlement than a single person with no dependents.
  • Education and training of the deceased: Higher trained and paid professionals usually see higher wrongful death settlements than a person with only a high school education.
  • Medical bills incurred
  • Funeral costs
  • Value of the deceased’s lost benefits, such as health insurance or pension.

Educated Guessing

The damages you have incurred cannot just be a rough guess. To succeed in a wrongful death accident settlement, the damages must be supported by strong evidence. Your personal injury attorney will have access to economists and financial professionals who can look at the situation and help to determine an appropriate settlement amount.

Wrongful death settlements in car accidents and other accidents are usually paid out by insurance companies who gave liability coverage to the entity or person who was negligent. It is important to remember that insurance policies nearly always have a limit to what they will pay out.

Even if you win a verdict or settlement for $1 million, you only would collect up to the limit of the policy in effect. If the person or entity does not have enough insurance coverage, they are personally responsible for any settlement or judgement amount. However, collecting the remaining amount can be difficult when the defendant has few assets.

How Much Money Did You Lose When Your Loved One Died?

It could seem strange to talk about money when your loved one dies in an accident. We all know that no amount of compensation can replace a human being. Still, state laws allow certain family members to receive compensation for financial losses in a wrongful death action, including:

Household services value. For instance, your husband may have taken care of major household repairs and the lawn. After his death, you need to hire a person to handle these chores. You can be compensated for this expense.

– Financial support in the future. If you relied on your deceased husband for financial support, then his death is devastating to your personal finances. You can obtain compensation equal to the amount of financial support you reasonably expected to receive in the future if he had lived.

– Burial and funeral costs.

– Loss of benefits or gifts that you would have gotten if your loved one had not died.

Calculating car accident wrongful death losses is challenging. It is not certain the type of work your loved one might have done 10 years in the future or exactly how much you would have received. But you and your wrongful death attorney can estimate the level of financial support you would have had by reviewing your loved one’s age at death, education, work experience, and work history.

What Are Your Intangible Losses from the Death of Your Loved One?

Most state laws recognize the emotional devastation you experience after a loved one dies. The law allows you to receive funds for several emotional losses:

– Loss of moral support

– Loss of affection

– Loss of attention

– Loss of companionship

– Loss of sexual relationship

– Loss of guidance

These are starkly real losses. But they can be challenging to calculate because there is no receipt that precisely identifies their worth. In addition, it can be a difficult thing to think about during an already rough time. However, you and your wrongful death attorney will review how you can show proof of these terrible losses.

Wrongful Death Settlement Examples

While there is no ‘average’ wrongful death settlement, a review of some online cases shows the different types of car accident wrongful death settlements that have been finalized in recent years. Here are some of them.

$2.5 million settlement in New York: A 30-year-old man died in a car accident. He was a passenger that hit another vehicle in New York City. Both drivers died in the crash. The decedent’s wife filed a suit against the estates of both drivers and the City of New York. She alleged the city had failed to keep the streets in a safe condition.

$1.25 million settlement: A 22 year-old was killed when she attempted to pass a tractor trailer. There was a vehicle stopped in the road making a left turn. He was able to stop but she was rear ended and forced into traffic where she was hit by another truck. Her parents sued the driver and the vehicle owner that hit their daughter’s vehicle from behind. They also sued the driver and owner of the rig that hit her. A jury found the rear driver 60% at fault and the deceased 40% at fault.

$5 million settlement in New York: A mother of four and her friend were walking in Manhattan when the driver of a garbage truck had a seizure and killed both of them. Plaintiffs claimed the truck owner had not followed federal law by not getting the employment history of the driver, which may have shown he had a seizure disorder.

$4.95 million settlement in Georgia: A businessman in Florida was driving in Georgia when he crossed the center line and hit another vehicle head-on, killing the other driver. The attorney for the plaintiff was able to argue that while the driver was in his personal vehicle at the time of the crash, he was ‘working’ so his company’s $5 million liability policy should pay the deceased’s family.

$10 million settlement in Florida: This was a tragic case where an 18-year-old was killed during the FIU Bridge collapse in Miami, Florida. Each parent received $5 million in pain and suffering for their minor child’s death.

$10 million settlement in Florida: This was not a car accident case, but an alligator killed a two year child at Walt Disney. The alligator bit and drowned the child. It is believed that Disney eventually settled for $10,000,000. Some attorney’s believe part of this wrongful death settlement included $4,500,000 for the father’s mental distress at having to witness the death.

How Much Compensation Can You Get For the Death of a Minor Child?

You may receive compensation for mental pain and suffering if your child is killed because of the negligence of a driver in a car accident. The definition of ‘minor child’ will vary by state. In some states, a ‘minor child’ is under the age of 15, but some states say a minor child is under 18.

One attorney has performed a detailed analysis of more than 15 wrongful death verdicts involving the death of a ‘minor child.’ From these legal cases, the average financial award for each parent’s pain and suffering was $4 million. This was how much was awarded to each parent.

However, there is often a major problem when a child dies in a car accident that is caused by someone’s negligence.

The problem is there isn’t enough insurance to cover the entire case value. Because of the limited insurance often available, the average settlement for a minor child’s wrongful death is usually far less than $4 million.

But there are some special scenarios where there will probably be at least $1 million in insurance to pay for the death of a child in a car accident. These are:

– The negligent driver was making deliveries for Grubhub, Doordash, Amazon Flex, Postmates, or Ubereats

– Rented a car and bought bodily injury liability coverage

– Drove a truck or bus for a major corporation such as Target, Disney or Walmart

Uber or Lyft driver who was driving a passenger at the time of the accident

What Factors Can Lower Your Wrongful Death Settlement?

In some wrongful death car accident settlements, you might get less than you expected. But there are some reasons for this that are usually easy to understand.

For instance, your loved one may have been partially at fault for the accident. Not every case involves a driver 100% at fault. For example, your wife might not have used her turn signal on her bicycle. A tractor trailer may have slammed into her because the driver was not expecting her to stop.

In this case, your loved one is partially responsible for the accident. Your wrongful death compensation would be reduced by their degree of fault. So, if you thought you would get a $3 wrongful death settlement, but your wife was 50% at fault, your settlement would be $1.5 million.

Other cases you may receive less wrongful death compensation:

1. You waited too long. States have statutes of limitations that limit how long you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit. California’s limit is two years from the date of death.

2. You do not have an experienced wrongful death attorney. These cases are not like others and have many complexities. You need a skilled wrongful death attorney who understands how to get as much compensation as possible in a car accident case.

Can Children Get Compensation If Parents Die in a Car Accident?

Children of decedents are legally considered survivors in most states, such as Florida and California. In Florida, any child of the deceased, regardless of age, can recover compensation for lost support and services from the date of the parent’s death. Minor children also may recover funds for mental pain and suffering as well as loss of companionship, guidance and instruction.

Talk to your wrongful death attorney about the specific laws in your state regarding children recovering compensation for the death of a parent.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Who can file is different in each state. In California, the people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit are:

– The decedent’s surviving spouse

– The decedent’s domestic partner

– The decedent’s surviving children

– If none of the above are alive, the suit can be brought by annoy entitled to the property of the deceased according to intestate succession, such as parents or siblings.

– Anyone who can prove they were financially dependent on the decedent, such as the ‘putative spouse’ and children of that spouse.

How To Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim

After a car accident, the police may conclude that negligence caused the fatality. That is when the legal concept of wrongful death comes into play. The loved ones of a fatally injured victim have three ways to pursue wrongful death compensation if they can prove liability:

– File a wrongful death claim with the insurance company of the deceased, if the at-fault driver does not have insurance or is underinsured.

– File a wrongful death claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

– File a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver.

Some of the parties that can be liable for your loved one’s wrongful death are:

– The driver, such as the person who was speeding and caused the fatal accident

– Another person. Such as the parent who gave alcohol to the minor driver at a party

– A company, such as the manufacturer of a faulty airbag

– A business owner, such as the bar owner who served alcohol to a drunk customer

– A government entity, such as the department of transportation that did not remove a hazard from the road.

In any of these cases, hire a skilled wrongful death attorney to take the stress of negotiations with insurance companies off your shoulders. A good wrongful death attorney knows the games insurance companies play and will fend off the lowball offers you receive. Your attorney also will explore every possible avenue of wrongful death compensation for your family:

– Several insurance liability policies related to the at-fault driver or owner of the vehicle

– Several insurance policies with underinsured or uninsured coverage

Dram shop violations (for serving alcohol to the driver that caused the accident)

– Product liability claims for defective vehicles or parts

Is Your Wrongful Death Settlement Taxable?

The IRS states that most wrongful death settlements are not taxable, if the payments are compensatory. This means the money is accounting for the pain and suffering in the case. If punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for especially reckless behavior, then the IRS may tax them.

Wrongful Death Settlement Calculator

Have you lost a loved one as a result of a motor vehicle accident? Find out how much financial compensation you may be legally entitled to in just minutes with our free online Wrongful Death Settlement Calculator.

Get Legal Help For Your Wrongful Death Car Accident Settlement

If you lost your loved one in a car accident caused by another person or entity, you need an experienced wrongful death attorney to take on those big insurance companies. Contact one of our experienced attorneys listed on Lawsuit Info Center to get you the compensation you deserve.

Get Legal Help for Your Wrongful Death Car Accident Settlements

Any person who has suffered the loss of a loved one to a possibly negligent driver or other negligent party should have their case reviewed by an experienced wrongful death attorney. This attorney can review the case and give you an idea of the type of damages you may expect. Most wrongful death attorneys will have familiarity with cases that resemble yours for your geographic area. The attorney also will be able to help you with the negotiation process. It is common for the non-legal person to be bullied by insurance companies into accepting a small settlement, but you could be entitled to much more.

Of course, no attorney can guarantee compensation for the car accident or a given settlement or verdict amount, but the chances of recovering sizable damages increases with a good attorney in your corner. Even though the attorney will charge a contingency fee of up to 1/3 of the settlement amount, most people who retain wrongful death attorneys usually are far better off in the end than those who do not seek legal representation.

Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ About rear end car accidents

Unfortunately, these machines we drive around in are incredibly heavy and victims of collisions do not always survive. If you have a loved one that has passed away from a motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to a wrongful death insurance payout. How do you calculate the death of a loved one? This is a very difficult question to answer. There is no specific answer because each case will vary.

If your loved one was involved in a fatal crash, you will need to calculate how much income of the household you have lost, medical bills that were endured following the accident, future loss of income that would’ve been had the victim not perished, any type of benefits the family would’ve gained had the victim not perished, and funeral expenses. Along with those losses listed above, you must factor in impalpable losses such as loss of partnership, loss of love, loss of affection, loss of consortium and loss of guidance.  Due to the painfulness of losing a loved one, death insurance payouts generally tend to be much higher than a personal injury claim.

Some examples of vehicle collision death settlements include: 

  • $11.7 million received for traffic vehicle collision resulting in death
  • $4.5 million received for vehicle collision resulting in death
  • $10.8 million received for faulty tires causing vehicle collision resulting in death
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A wrongful death settlement is divided among the beneficiaries of the deceased and is decided by a jury if settled in court how the settlement gets divided. Many times the beneficiaries are able to agree on the distribution of compensation and can do so without the help of a jury. However, there are circumstances such as the beneficiaries being minors and a court must select a suitable guardian to ensure the children receive a fair settlement and are properly taken care of. Every situation is different and in some cases adult beneficiaries cannot agree on the division of compensation and must hire their own attorneys to cooperate and reach a settlement agreement.

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Wrongful death settlements are categorized by damages in which the family of the deceased is left to deal with. If proven that the death of the deceased person was a result of negligence, compensation is owed for the following reasons:

  • Funeral costs
  • Loss of income from the deceased
  • Pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death
  • Loss of companionship and love
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of inheritance
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There are many people who can file a wrongful death claim however; each state has different laws. In all states immediate family members such as parents, children and even including the spouse of the deceased are able to bring a wrongful death claim. Some states also allow extended family members such as aunts, uncles and cousins to bring a wrongful death claim and certain states will also allow the life partner of the deceased to sue as long as they can prove they were financially dependent on the deceased. If you are looking to bring a wrongful death claim, make sure to know your state laws and speak with a wrongful death attorney about your options.

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There are lawyers that specialize in many different practice areas of law including personal injury, workers compensation, medical malpractice and wrongful death. If you are looking to file a wrongful death claim, but sure to diligently do your research on wrongful death attorneys in your area. It’s important to explore your options, speak with them and make sure the attorney you choose is the right fit for you. Many attorneys practice several areas of law so make sure to choose an attorney who has plenty of experience with handling wrongful death claims.

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Benefits of a wrongful death lawsuit are granted to a few select individuals, generally the beneficiaries of the deceased. If there are no surviving relatives, the benefits will be handed down to the individuals in the next class. However, when there are no remaining individuals in the following class, there will be no wrongful death lawsuit to file. So who gets the money if it is possible to file a wrongful death claim? The classes are categorized in such manner:

  • Immediate family members (childen, spouse, parents)
  • Distant family members (grandparents, siblings)
  • Domestic partners
  • Any financial dependents
  • Anyone who has suffered financially due to the demise.
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Losing a loved one due to negligence of another in a collision may seem impossible to recover from. The devastating process of grieving is painful and consuming, on top of managing a financially secure future for your family. While, it is a difficult time to go through, family members are capable of filing a claim against the responsible party involved and receive compensation for their loss. If you wish to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you make informed decisions as well as receive the most compensation possible for all damages. The different types of damages the family of a wrongful death lawsuit may be compensated for include:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of benefits
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of love, care, comfort and affection
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Companionship
  • Mental agony, pain and suffering
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If the deceased family wishes to purse a claim, they must prove that the death was indeed a result of negligence, then the claim may be covered by your auto liability insurance. Liability as well as property damage coverage is significant to have in order to cover any damage you may cause to other drivers on the road. A wrongful death claim is dealt with comparatively to a personal injury claim. However, since casualty claims are severe and typically result in an extreme amount of compensation, insurance agencies attempt to protect themselves ad deny any responsibility. This is why it is in your best interest to consult with a personal injury attorney to ensure you receive what you are owed.

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Wrongful death suits are considered a personal injury claim, however, it is a special kind of personal injury claim. A claim can be made when a person has been involved in a fatal accident due to the carelessness or purposeful act of another. If a family member has been killed in an auto accident as the result of negligence of another party, the family has legal options. Once investigations have concluded and the collision has been deemed a wrongful death, the victims’ surviving inheritors may file a claim. A wrongful death in an auto accident can occur for an assortment of reasons, for example:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Fatigue
  • Distracted driving/ texting
  • Speeding
  • Faulty street conditions
  • Auto malfunctions

At the point when somebody’s actions prompt a loved ones demise, regardless of weather it was accidental or intentional, the perished loved ones and family may be entitled to benefits as a result of the wrongful death.

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Wrongful death cases are brought against an offender who has caused somebody’s demise either negligently or through deliberate damage. Every claim that is to be made has an expiration date known as the statute of limitations except for murder. So, would the case be the same for car accident wrongful death claims? While wrongful death cases do have statutes of limitations, there are special contemplation with regards to applying timeframes to wrongful death claims.  Each state has it’s own rules and regulations regarding statute of limitations however; the general timeframe given is 1-3 years to file a claim from the time of death.

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Most of the time, yet not every case, wrongful death car accident settlements are not taxable. As indicated by the IRS any lawsuit settlement granted for compensatory reasons are non-taxable including wrongful death settlements. Essentially, any costs identified with your perished loved ones initial injury and endeavors at recuperation are non-taxable.

When is a wrongful death settlement not taxable? (Compensatory damages)

  • Pain and suffering from injury to death
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral costs
  • Mental anguish

When IS a wrongful death settlement taxable? (Punitive damages)

  • Loss of wages
  • Loss of future income/benefits
  • Emotional distress
  • Settlement interest
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Every wrongful death car accident lawsuit is particular with many different variables to examine. Some cases settle relatively quickly while others may take up to 1-4 years to conclude.

Variables that determine the timeframe in which wrongful death car accident claims get resolved:

  • Timeframe in which the investigation concludes
  • The participation of the insurance agency in a timely manner
  • Amount of insurance coverage
  • Determining how valuable the life of the deceased is
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What exactly falls under the category for wrongful death by auto accident? A fatal collision from somebody whose carelessness caused another’s passing. Wrongful death claims are intended to repay those relatives whom the victim has left behind after the deadly mishap. Before you come up with a number of how much you think you should receive, you must understand the various factors that go into figuring out a value.

Type of wrongful death suit- There are many different types of wrongful death suits. Some results of wrongful death include negligent driving, workplace error, murder, medical malpractice and pharmaceutical negligence.

Car accident wrongful death suit- In the case of a wrongful death suit involving a car accident, many different variables are accounted for when determining how much the family of the victim is owed. No amount of money will atone the loss of a loved one however; the compensation owed in a wrongful death lawsuit begins with deciding how much will the loved ones suffer economically. Other factors which help determine how much you may receive include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • The income in which the deceased was receiving at the time of death
  • The loss of benefits
  • The heath in which the deceased was in
  • The age of the deceased person
  • The family’s loss of love and pain felt before death

The following are some wrongful demise settlement sums that have been published in various parts of the nation:

  • 22-year-old single male was killed in a motorcycle accident awarded $3 Million to his family leaving behind his parents and 2 brothers.
  • 17-year-old male killed in a two-car collision awarded $215,000
  • Family of three struck by another car while 11-year-old daughter witnessed from the back seat. The mother passed leaving behind a husband and three children awarded $816,000
  • Death of a pedestrian woman awarded $1,150,000 against well-known trucking company
  • Death of a 6-year-old girl awarded $1 million due to the negligence of a tractor-trailer truck driver
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