Who Gets the Money In a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When another person’s negligent or intentional act causes your loved one’s death, you likely expect them to face consequences for their actions. While an at-fault party can face criminal charges in some circumstances, that is not always the case.
Filing a wrongful death claim gives certain family members the ability to recover compensation for the losses they suffered as a result of their loved one’s death. While no amount of compensation can bring your loved one back, a wrongful death suit can help your family cope with the financial harm caused by your loss.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Pennsylvania defines wrongful death as a death that occurs due to “a wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” In other words, Pennsylvania considers any death caused by another person’s negligent or wrongful act a wrongful death.
A wrongful death lawsuit seeks to recover the losses the decedent could have claimed in a personal injury suit had they not succumbed to their injuries. Since the decedent can no longer recover these losses, the wrongful death statute authorizes certain surviving family members to file the wrongful death suit on their behalf.
Pennsylvania law requires the personal representative of the decedent’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, if they fail to file the wrongful death suit within six months of the death, any of the decedent’s beneficiaries can file the wrongful death claim on behalf of all beneficiaries.
How to Divide a Wrongful Death Settlement
At the conclusion of a wrongful death suit, the settlement or judgment is distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries. A beneficiary is someone who is designated to receive benefits on behalf of someone else. In Pennsylvania, the intestacy statute outlines who receives the settlement based on which family members survive the decedent. The settlement is distributed as follows:
- If the decedent has no surviving spouse or children, the settlement proceeds go to the decedent’s parents;
- If the decedent has a surviving spouse, but no surviving parents or descendants, the proceeds go to the decedent’s surviving spouse;
- If the decedent has surviving children, but no surviving spouse, the proceeds are split equally between the descendants;
- If the decedent has a surviving spouse and surviving descendants, the spouse receives the first $30,000 of the settlement, and one-half of the remaining settlement proceeds, and the descendants split the remaining proceeds equally;
- If the decedent has a surviving spouse, no surviving descendants, and surviving parents, the spouse receives the first $30,000 of the settlement, and one-half of the remaining settlement proceeds, and the decedent’s parents receive the remainder of the settlement; or
- If the decedent lacks any surviving children, surviving parents, or surviving spouse, the decedent’s surviving siblings can receive the wrongful death settlement.
How to divide a wrongful death settlement may seem complicated to figure out, especially in the aftermath of losing your loved one unexpectedly. An attorney at Rosen Justice Injury Lawyers can explain who will receive the payout in your wrongful death case.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
How are wrongful death settlements paid out? Wrongful death settlement proceeds go directly to the beneficiary instead of passing through the decedent’s estate. Once a settlement is approved, the personal representative will determine what shares each beneficiary is entitled to and distribute the proceeds.
Can a Sibling Sue for Wrongful Death?
Can a sibling sue for wrongful death? The personal representative of the decedent’s estate is responsible for filing the wrongful death claim. The decedent can name whoever they want as their personal representative in their will. If they didn’t leave a will naming a personal representative, the court will appoint someone to serve as the decedent’s personal representative. Oftentimes, the court will appoint a surviving spouse or family member to serve as the personal representative.
As stated above, a sibling can recover damages for wrongful death if the decedent lacks a surviving spouse, surviving parents, or surviving descendants.
Time Limit on Filing Wrongful Death Claims
Pennsylvania imposes a two-year statute of limitations on all wrongful death claims. This means the claim must be filed within two years of the decedent’s death. Otherwise, the court will likely dismiss your case.
Remember, the time limit is two years from when your loved one died. Therefore, if your loved one spent time in the hospital before succumbing to their injuries, the statutory period does not start until after their death.
How to Find a Wrongful Death Attorney
As you may already know, hundreds of wrongful death attorneys advertise their services throughout the state. How do you know which one can help you? We have compiled a few tips to help you find a lawyer who will represent you aggressively and effectively.
Look for Someone With Experience
Many attorneys focus on a particular area of law. When you file a wrongful death lawsuit, you want an attorney who has experience handling matters similar to yours.
You would not hire a bicycle mechanic to work on your car. Similarly, you should not handle an inexperienced attorney to handle your wrongful death claim. Our team at Rosen Justice Injury Lawyers has over fifty years of combined experience helping clients with wrongful death claims.
Read Reviews of Former Clients
Many law firms post reviews from their former clients on their websites. You can look at these reviews to get a feel for a law firm and how its attorneys treat clients. Remember, your wrongful death attorney will stand by your side during some incredibly vulnerable moments. You want to ensure you can trust your attorney to act with your best interest in mind.
Need to Know Who Gets the Money In a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? Contact Rosen Justice Injury Lawyers Today
Our attorneys at Rosen Justice Injury Lawyers have over 75 years of combined experience protecting the rights of injured victims and their families. There is no way to quantify the loss of your loved one. But we can fight for you to receive a wrongful death settlement that eases your financial burdens.
When you work with us, you can trust that we will do everything in our power to secure a favorable outcome on your behalf. Contact Rosen Justice Injury Lawyers today to schedule your free initial consultation with a wrongful death lawyer.