After suddenly losing a loved one, it can be a very difficult time. Not only are you grieving your loss, but you may have financial hardships related to your family member’s passing. A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim for compensation from someone whose negligent actions, recklessness, or intentional acts caused the death.

But how do you know how much your claim is worth? When is a settlement considered fair compensation? Our Las Vegas wrongful death lawyers explain.

Who Gets the Money in Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

In Nevada, the victim’s surviving family members or a representative of the deceased person’s estate are eligible to file a wrongful death claim. The surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children are considered the “intestate heirs” and can bring a legal wrongful death claim.

However, some victims do not have a spouse or children. In these cases, the people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit (in this order) include:

  • The victim’s parents
  • The victim’s siblings
  • The victim’s closest living family member
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Should You Settle a Wrongful Death Lawsuit or Go to Trial?

Whether you choose to settle your wrongful death suit or go to trial depends on the settlement amount. The settlement should compensate for damages, which may include:

  • Final medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages (including future value)
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of gifts or benefits
  • Punitive damages (if qualified)

If the monetary value of the settlement does not fairly represent both economic and non-economic losses, you can choose to negotiate a higher payment or go to trial and present your case for more compensation.

An experienced wrongful death lawyer can offer sound legal advice and help you fully value your damages to bring a strong claim that puts you in a better position to get a fair settlement. However, if both parties cannot reach a fair negotiated settlement, your attorney can represent you in court.

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What Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement?

The average settlement amount for a wrongful death claim can vary significantly depending on the circumstances. Compensation is determined on a case-by-case basis using the specific facts of the victim’s life and what happened to cause the death.

However, wrongful death settlements are typically high because the results are often devastating for surviving family members. Amounts can range from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. These amounts are often distributed as a structured settlement1 that offers a steady stream of income to the victim’s family members.

What Factors Contribute to Determining a Wrongful Death Settlement?

Placing a monetary value on a person’s life is incredibly difficult. However, several factors may be considered to help reach a fair amount that represents the surviving family members’ losses. These include:

  • The age of the deceased person
  • The deceased’s earning capacity
  • The deceased’s state of health
  • The deceased’s income at the time of death
  • The age and circumstances of the deceased’s dependents
  • The deceased’s education and training
  • Expenses incurred for the deceased
  • Value of lost benefits (pensions and health insurance)
  • The circumstances of the death (i.e., medical malpractice, intentional harm)

When claiming damages, the specific amounts must be supported by objective evidence and not just an estimate. Economists and other expert witnesses can look at the deceased person’s circumstances and consider the various factors to determine a fair amount.

wrongful death settlements

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Divided?

According to NRS 41.0852, wrongful death compensation is awarded to surviving family members, and each legal heir can make a case for a fair amount. This is done by proving connections to the deceased and how the death has affected that person’s life.

In general, though, the most significant portion of the settlement will go to the victim’s spouse or domestic partner. The surviving children then get the next largest share, with the remaining amount being divided between other beneficiaries who can show they have suffered losses due to the victim’s death.

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Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable?

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)3, most wrongful death settlement payments are non-taxable, provided they are compensatory. This means that the compensation is intended to account for the pain and suffering experienced by the case. If the damages are punitive or meant to punish the person responsible for the death, the IRS may tax the punitive damages.

It is essential that any award clearly sets forth whether the damages are compensatory or punitive. This will help resolve any confusion when it comes to reporting to the IRS. Anyone who may receive a wrongful death settlement should consult with an attorney and accountant to review the tax repercussions of any settlement proposal before it is accepted.

What Is the Highest Wrongful Death Payout in the United States?

In the case of Galdamez v. U-HAUL CO. OF PENNSYLVANIA, 168 A. 3d 1257 (2017)4 resulted in a historic pre-trial settlement of $160 million in 20185. Olga Galdamez and her daughter died from burns after her food truck exploded due to a leaking propane tank.

Investigators found that Galdamez brought the propane tanks to a U-Haul subsidiary to be filled. However, the tanks were outdated, did not have the required safety valves, and were filled incorrectly. According to the evidence, these mistakes directly led to the victims’ deaths.

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How Can an Attorney Help With Wrongful Death Claims?

In order to be awarded compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit, the claimant must prove the following elements of the case:

  1. Duty of care
  2. Breach of duty
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

Wrongful death lawyers have the skills and experience to prove these elements, fully value your claim, and make a strong case for compensation. An attorney will also negotiate settlement offers and ensure the insurance companies don’t bully you into an unfair resolution.

While a personal injury attorney can’t guarantee successful results, your chances of recovering damages are significantly improved if you have a knowledgeable attorney to represent you. Contact our team to learn how we can help.

attorney for wrongful death settlement

Sources:

1Byerly, C. J. (9 February 2022). Wrongful Death Claims and Settlements. Annuity.org. Retrieved 22 March 2022.

2NRS 41.085

3IRS Rule 1.104-1

4Galdamez v. U-HAUL CO. OF PENNSYLVANIA, 168 A. 3d 1257 (2017)

5Moselle, A. (27 June 2018). Historic settlement for victims of Philly food truck explosion. WHYY.org. Retrieved 22 March 2022.

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Adam S. Kutner

Adam S. Kutner Personal Injury Lawyer

With more than 30 years of experience fighting for victims of personal injury in the Las Vegas valley, Attorney Adam S. Kutner knows his way around the Nevada court system and how to get clients their settlement promptly and trouble-free.