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Who Pays for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? - The Larsen Firm
An image of a woman paying for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Who Pays for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawsuits don’t always mean that the responsible person will have to pay. Regardless of who is ultimately liable, The Larsen Firm will fight aggressively to protect your interests and secure the results you deserve.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Any negligent, reckless, or intentional wrongful act can make someone responsible for another’s death. Examples of accidents that might result in wrongful death include: 

  • Car accidents, including collisions with pedestrians and cyclists;
  • “Slip-and-fall” incidents;
  • Assault and battery;
  • Murder or manslaughter; 
  • Elder abuse or neglect; 
  • Child abuse or neglect; and 
  • Medical malpractice. 

The law provides a legal cause of action for specific family members to hold someone accountable for the death of their loved one.

What Costs Should I Expect to Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

An image of a statue of justice next to a law book, with the text "recover what you are owned."

A wrongful death lawsuit allows a family to recover the value of their losses after a close family member’s death. Economic and non-economic damages are ordinarily recoverable, including funeral costs, loss of income, and the loss of the person’s love and affection. Unfortunately, a wrongful death award will not compensate the family for their emotional pain and suffering, including grief and sorrow.

To receive compensation, your attorney will notify the responsible party of your damages and your intent to file a claim. The responsible party usually contacts their insurance company, and the insurance adjuster will likely send you a settlement offer. Wrongful death attorneys are experienced with evaluating settlement offers and can help you decide if the offer is fair. 

You may need to file a lawsuit if the responsible party disputes your claims. Insurance companies regularly try to avoid blame and pressure families to accept an early lowball settlement. The attorneys at The Larsen Firm have experience negotiating with insurance companies and will work to ensure that any offer is fair before you agree to it.

Who Pays Your Damages in a Wrongful Death Settlement?

The law holds a person liable for the consequences of their intentional or negligent actions when those actions cause another person’s death. A person is negligent if they disregard their responsibility to take reasonable actions to protect others. Here’s a list of who might be responsible for paying for a wrongful death award or settlement:

  • The responsible individual or company,
  • General liability insurance,
  • Auto liability insurance,
  • Bodily injury liability insurance,
  • The responsible employee’s employer,
  • Workers’ compensation, or
  • Employers’ liability insurance.

For example, the law requires automobile drivers to make reasonable efforts to drive safely and avoid collisions. When a person causes an accident, that driver is legally responsible for paying damages. But most people don’t have much extra cash lying around, so their legally mandated California liability insurance usually pays wrongful death claims. If the driver was working when the accident happened, their employer could also be held responsible. 

When seeking a wrongful death award, you may wonder, Who pays for a wrongful death lawsuit? As you can see, typically, either the responsible party or their insurance company pays these awards. 

How Are Settlements Paid Out? 

As you can see, insurance companies most often pay for wrongful death settlements. For example, you can file with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for compensation after an auto accident. If your losses exceed the policy limit, you may be able to sue the person directly for the excess amount. However, suing the individual presupposes that they have the money to pay you if you win.

Ordinarily, a negligent party or their insurer will pay a settlement or judgment to an injured party as a lump sum. However, you may have the option to accept a structured settlement, where you get paid a fixed amount regularly over time. 

When multiple people are entitled to a settlement or judgment amount, they may decide how to split the award. Although each heir has a personal and separate claim, California’s wrongful death statute requires everyone to argue their claims together as joint litigation. If the family cannot agree on a division, the court may split the award based on each person’s economic need.

Finally, after getting an award, the insurance company typically sends a check to your lawyer, who then deducts their contingency percentage and their costs. These costs and percentages should come as no surprise because they should have been fully discussed and agreed upon before you hired the attorney. After those deductions, your lawyer will issue you a check for the remaining balance.

Who Has a Legal Right to a Wrongful Death Settlement?

As a statutory right of action, the California Code Of Civil Procedure Section 377.60 limits who may recover for a wrongful death claim. The parties who can seek financial damages include:

  • The personal representative of the decedent’s estate (or the successor in interest) on behalf of the decedent for specific damages, like medical bills;
  • The surviving spouse or domestic partner;
  • The decedent’s children (or grandchildren if the children have passed);
  • In some circumstances, those who would be entitled to an inheritance under California’s intestate law; and
  • In limited circumstances, other household members who are financially dependent on the victim may also seek damages.

Although no financial award can make up for the loss of your loved one, it can help you get back on your feet. 

The Larsen Firm: Working for You and Your Family

As experienced wrongful death attorneys, we know that losing a loved one is traumatic and challenging. While you are grieving, the bills may be piling up, and the collectors are calling. You wish you could hold the responsible person accountable for their negligence or wrongdoing. With The Larsen Firm on your side, you can. 

We don’t back down and won’t let you accept an unjust settlement just to close the case. When you need help finding a doctor or medical specialist, we can connect our clients with the best possible care. We will coordinate accident investigations and contact your health insurance company. Our attorneys will take responsibility for communicating with the other party’s insurance company and ensure that your case proceeds as planned. Whether you secure a fair settlement or need to take your case to trial, The Larsen Firm will be by your side. We know how to handle the legal details so you can focus on your family and their well-being.

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