How To Divide a Wrongful Death Settlement
If you’ve lost a loved one in an accident or incident that wasn’t their fault and you’re in the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party, one of the things you’ll need to understand is how wrongful death settlements are distributed. Every state has unique laws regarding who can receive money from a wrongful death settlement if your claim is successful and what that money can be used for. Since wrongful death lawsuits are filed on behalf of someone else, it’s understandable that there are rules that govern how a settlement is divided.
Below, we’ll go over how laws operate in Arkansas and how those laws will impact how a settlement can be divided. In most situations, when you hire a personal injury attorney to handle your family’s case, your lawyer will explain all of this during the process of filing the lawsuit. It’s important to note, however, that the exact settlement amount may change depending on the outcome of the case, the case’s details, and whether it goes to trial.
Arkansas Laws That Affect How a Wrongful Death Settlement Is Divided
State laws govern both who can initiate the process of filing a wrongful death claim when a loved one passes away as well as how a settlement or verdict award is distributed and what that money is for.
According to Arkansas code §16-62-102, the following individuals are able to bring (initiate the process of filing) a wrongful death lawsuit in the state of Arkansas:
- The decedent’s estate (the person or people named as the personal representative(s) of the deceased individual’s estate)
- Surviving spouse
In cases where there is an estate established (such as in a will, for example), the person or people named as the personal representative(s) of the estate or executor(s) of the estate must bring the claim forward. If there isn’t a named representative, then any of the rest of the close family members listed may bring a claim forward.
This same code also dictates how a settlement is distributed. The following parties can receive the funds listed:
- The decedent’s estate is able to recover funds for funeral and burial expenses and medical bills and lost wages related to the incident that led to their loved one’s passing.
- The decedent’s family, if they are not listed as part of the estate, can only recover funds for the loss of companionship, emotional support, and financial support of their loved one.
How Are Settlement Distributions Handled?
In some states, wrongful death settlements are divided evenly among surviving family members and loved ones. In Arkansas, this isn’t the case. The compensation awarded from a wrongful death lawsuit in Arkansas is divided following traditional court rules and the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure. This means that each surviving family member is only entitled to the damages they face. “Damages” in this sense refers to the suffering and/or hardships they had or have to endure.
As an example, if a family of two siblings files a wrongful death lawsuit for another sibling who passed away, yet one sibling lived closer to the decedent than the other and therefore spent a great deal of time with them, they might be awarded more compensation than one who lived farther away or who was estranged. Similarly, a child who was financially dependent on the decedent may receive more compensation than one who is financially independent.
In situations where there are two children, for instance, that were financially dependent on the deceased individual, the money that is granted from the decedent’s lost wages will generally be split evenly between both children.
Regardless of how many family members there are who may be able to receive compensation from a wrongful death settlement, all distributions are handled under one claim. This means that some family members may receive less compensation than others depending on factors like physical distance, financial dependence, and emotional closeness.
One other area where awarded compensation can differ between family members is money that is awarded for lost companionship. Understandably, the level of companionship that one receives from a parent, spouse, child, and sibling are drastically different. A child may be able to receive compensation for the lost guidance and counsel of a parent, for example, while a spouse may be able to receive compensation for lost romantic benefits.
Given the incredible difficulty of putting a price tag on these concepts, it’s impossible to predict how the difference will look number-wise. As you can see, great care needs to be taken when calculating damages when a wrongful death lawsuit is filed. An experienced attorney will know how to make these calculations to help you and your family move forward to the best of your ability.
Get Peace of Mind with Help from McMath Woods P.A.
The attorneys at McMath Woods P.A. are experienced in handling complex wrongful death lawsuits and understand the nuances of Arkansas laws. We’re prepared to walk you through the process of filing a lawsuit every step of the way to ensure your needs are met and that every family member and loved one receives the help they need to recover from a tragedy no one should have to endure.
To learn how we may be able to help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Little Rock law firm today.