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Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Settlement?

If a loved one in your family dies as the result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to financial compensation.  Whether caused by a car crash, a workplace accident, a defective product or any other event resulting in a fatal accident, a wrongful death claim is a legal remedy for the loss that you’ve endured.  We know that money can never replace the loved one you’ve lost, but it can help cover medical and burial expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the loss of future earnings.

In Georgia, certain family members and/or an accident victim’s estate can bring a wrongful death claim when a victim dies in an accident.  An experienced lawyer can oversee your wrongful death case.  Georgia law distinguishes between people who can bring a wrongful death claim and people who can receive compensation from such a claim.

How is the money divided in a wrongful death settlement?

Section 51-4-2(d)(1) of the Georgia Code states that wrongful death proceeds “shall be equally divided, share and share alike, among the surviving spouse and the children per capita, and the descendants of children shall take per stirpes.”

In simple terms, this means:

  1. If the victim’s current spouse and no more than 2 children survive, all 3 receive an equal share of a successful lawsuit’s payout. For example, if the payout is $1.5 million, then the spouse and two children each receive $500,000.
  2. If there is no living spouse, then each surviving child receives an equal share of the payout.
  3. If any of the victim’s children are deceased, then the child’s children and grandchildren will split equally whatever share that now-deceased child of the victim would have been entitled to.
  4. In addition, Section 51-4-2(d)(2) of the Georgia Code states that a surviving spouse will never be given less than one-third of the payout. That means if a couple has three or more children, then the surviving spouse will receive one-third of the recovery, and the remaining children will split equally the remaining two-thirds.

If this sounds complicated, it can be.  To find out more about your unique situation, talk to a wrongful death attorney at The Stoddard Firm.  We have helped countless families enduring this very difficult experience, and we have successfully pursued many wrongful death claims.  To find out how we can help, call us at 470-467-2200.

How does a wrongful death settlement work?

Roughly 170,000 individuals in the U.S. die each year from accidental injuries, according to the CDC.  The number of physician office visits for unintentional injuries was 39.5 million in 2016, and there were 29.4 million emergency room visits that same year for unintentional injuries.  These injuries, also called accident-related injuries, are often preventable and typically are the result of someone else’s careless or negligent act.  When someone’s negligence leads to another person’s death — its legal term is “wrongful death” — surviving family members can seek financial compensation through both wrongful death claims and related estate-based claims.

There can be one or multiple defendants in a wrongful death claim.  For example, when a person is killed in a large truck accident, defendants could include:

  • The driver who caused the wreck
  • The trucking company that employed the driver
  • The trucking company’s insurer
  • Either vehicles’ manufacturer (if a vehicle defect contributed)
  • The governmental entity that designed or maintained the road (if the roads were poorly or negligently maintained).

This is just one example of how your attorney can identify several entities that may be held liable for your loved one’s death.

A wrongful death settlement happens when your attorney files a lawsuit against one or more entities whose negligence led to a person’s death, and both you and the Defendants want to settle out of court.  Your attorney then negotiates with these entities’ insurance companies to arrive at a dollar figure that is agreeable to both sides.  Of course, insurance companies are going to try to get you to settle for as little money as possible.  That is their job.  Our job is to prepare the case for trial because the best settlement tool is to create fear that the verdict is going to be large.

At The Stoddard Firm, our wrongful death lawyers work hard to achieve the best possible outcome in wrongful death cases.  We know that it’s a very difficult time for the clients we represent.  We are both compassionate with grieving families and tough on defendants.

How are wrongful death lawsuits paid out?

Generally, wrongful death lawsuits are paid out in one of two ways.  You and your attorney will decide which way is best for your case.  These are:

  1. Settlement Agreement
  2. Jury Award

Every case is different, and the needs and goals of surviving families are different.  Depending on the facts in your case, you may want a quick settlement in which insurance companies agree to pay you a set amount of money, or you may want your case to go all the way to a jury trial in which attorneys argue in front of a judge and a jury issues a decision about how much your case is worth.  This can sometimes – but not always – result in a larger payout.

Contact a skilled wrongful death attorney today

If you’ve lost a loved one in an accident caused by the negligence of another person, you may be entitled to financial compensation.  No amount of money will ever replace your family member, but it can pay bills and help provide for a grieving spouse, children or grandchildren in the future.  A skilled and experienced wrongful death attorney can argue on your behalf and negotiate with insurance companies to achieve a favorable financial settlement.  Talk to The Stoddard Firm at 470-467-2200.  The initial phone call is free.