Wrongful death lawsuits are horribly traumatic for survivors. In a way it forces them to relive the loss of their loved one and the horrible circumstances in which it occurred. Florida law strictly governs who can recover, what damages they can recover, and at what age they can recover them. Special provisions are made for both adult and minor children, as well as spouses and parents of the deceased. Survivors are also entitled to payment of legal fees incurred in the process of the suit and other expenses to the estate such as medical, mortuary, and funeral incurred before the filing of the suit.
Damages specific to survivors that are typically covered in a wrongful death suit include the following:
- Loss of support.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of protection.
- Loss of parental companionship.
There are also damages that are specific to the estate of the decedent including loss of earnings and net accumulations that could reasonably have been expected to accrue over the decedent’s lifetime. However, when it comes to distribution certain relationships and financial considerations are weighted more heavily than others when it comes to wrongful death settlement distributions.
- If the beneficiaries are adults and are capable of agreeing or coming to agreement with other parties attorneys to a fair division of compensation.
- If there are minor children among the survivors who need to have their financial well-being assured. This may require the appointment of a guardian ad litem to administer the compensation until the child is of age.
- If there are dependent adults among the survivors - such as a disabled child or non-compos mentis parent with Alzheimer’s – they may be subject to the same arrangements as a minor child. A third-party may be appointed to oversee their share of the compensation, and act on their behalf, and in the best interests of their well-being.
Wrongful Death and Taxes
You may have heard that settlement distributions in a civil suit are not taxable. This is not exactly accurate. In general, both the compensatory and punitive damages that are awarded in a wrongful death suit are not taxed by the IRS if these damages were awarded to individuals after 1996. However, any settlement monies distributed to the estate such as lost wages or net accumulations automatically become a part of the estate in probate. These are subject to the typical estate taxes as well as income taxes that the deceased would have paid in life. Creditors may also have a claim on the estate in probate and may file to claim a share of distributions.
Losing a loved one is dramatic, and if the death was wrongful and preventable it is so much the worse. If you are contemplating filing a wrongful death lawsuit, and find that the estate is overwhelmed with bills for final expenses, please give us a call and make an appointment for free consultation. We can help you get through the process and end up with a good result.