Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Settlement?

After an accident in which your loved one suffers fatal injuries, you may want to try to hold the negligent party accountable. One of the ways to do that, while protecting the financial interests of the family, is through a wrongful death claim. If you are contemplating filing a wrongful death claim, you and your family may be wondering, who gets the money in a wrongful death settlement?

In Washington, according to RCW 4.20.020, only the beneficiaries of of the decedent are eligible to receive a payment after winning a claim. These relatives of the deceased can include:

  • Surviving spouse
  • State-registered domestic partner
  • Children
  • Stepchildren

If none of these people are surviving, the benefits from the wrongful death claim could go to:

  • Surviving parents
  • Siblings of the deceased

How Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Work?

Our team will represent you every step of the way in a wrongful death case.

To start the process of filing a wrongful death case, state law requires that the personal representative of the decedent’s estate officially files the claim. If a personal representative does not exist, the court will appoint someone to serve in this capacity upon request. The personal representative stands in for the family members who qualify as the beneficiaries of action. Only these beneficiaries can receive payments from the wrongful death settlement, however.

Typically, the beneficiaries will make the decision to pursue a wrongful death claim and ask the personal representative to bring the claim. Understand that RCW 4.16.080 sets a deadline of three years as the statute of limitations for beginning a wrongful death lawsuit. The three-year clock begins on the date of your loved one’s death.

We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of the case and to provide advice about pursuing a wrongful death claim. Once you hire us, we handle the day-to-day aspects of managing the claim. We file all paperwork on your behalf. We will collect information and facts that we will help establish that another party is liable for your loved one’s death. We will determine which party, or parties, should be responsible for paying the wrongful death claim.

Negotiating for a Settlement

After reviewing and investigating the details of your claim, our wrongful death lawyers will begin negotiations with the representatives of the negligent party. The hope during the negotiation phase is that we can come to an agreement with the negligent party on a settlement amount. The majority of wrongful death cases will settle during this phase with no need to go to trial. The settlement terms can involve the payout amount, as well as the method by which the negligent party will make the payment.

Going to Trial

If we are unable to come to a fair settlement during negotiations, we may recommend taking the case to trial. In court, we will present evidence to show that the other party’s negligent behavior led to your loved one’s death. We also will present evidence to show why you deserve the settlement amount we are requesting. We can seek damages for items such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral expenses
  • Burial expenses
  • Lost income and financial support for the family
  • Judgment for the pain and suffering of the victim prior to death
  • A beneficiary’s loss of the decedent’s companionship, care, and affection

The loss of intangibles like love, care, protection, and guidance are unique to each beneficiary’s relationship to the decedent. Our wrongful death attorneys can help beneficiaries discover the damages that are specific to each of them, and gather and present evidence to support an award for those damages.

We will provide advice throughout the case about the steps you should take and about whether you should accept a certain settlement offer. However, the final decision about whether to settle a claim for a certain amount always belongs to you.

We Give You the Compassionate Representation You Deserve

We know how challenging it can be to file a wrongful death claim. Washington State law recently underwent some changes that cause some confusion for surviving family members. The raw emotions of losing a loved one to another party’s negligent behavior are difficult to process. Some people worry about having to relive these feelings repeatedly during a wrongful death case.

Trust that the lawyers at Montoya Hinckley will stand by your side from start to finish. You are not alone during this process. We will do everything in our power to negotiate a favorable settlement for you. Should the case need to go to trial, we will aggressively represent your interests in court.

We will work tirelessly on your behalf. Call us as soon as possible at (509) 895-7373 for a free review of your wrongful death case.

How Are Wrongful Death Lawsuits Paid Out?

Recipients of a wrongful death claim payout may receive a lump sum or structured payments.

In the majority of wrongful death cases, an insurance company representing the negligent party will pay out the claim. This is common in fatal accidents such as:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Defective product accidents

However, if the party who caused the fatal accident doesn’t have insurance coverage, any judgment in the case could come from the party’s personal finances. In such situations, it becomes crucial to consult with a skilled personal injury attorney in Ellensburg. The court may force the negligent party to liquidate property or sell personal possessions to make the ordered payment.

Understanding Lump Sum Payments

A lump sum payment is the most common wrongful death payout method. This means that the insurance company or responsible party will pay the entire amount of the judgment or settlement at one time. When our wrongful death lawyer and the negligent party come to an agreement through settlement negotiations, a lump sum payment is common.

Understanding Structured Settlement Payments

Some wrongful death lawsuit settlements involve structured payments, which are a series of payments that occur over time.

In some negotiations, the insurance company or at fault party may request to make structured payments as part of the settlement. The party paying the settlement may offer to pay a larger total amount over time, to receive the benefit of making structured payments, than it would if it was making a lump sum payment.

We understand that some of our clients only want a lump sum payment. Having a large sum of money at one time allows them to immediately pay medical bills and funeral costs related to the accident. Other clients like the idea of receiving a regular payment, as it can provide a reliable source of income. We will talk to you about your preference for receiving the wrongful death payouts, and we will make that request during negotiations or in court.

Montoya Hinckley Is Ready to Help with Your Wrongful Death Case

After you hire us, we will communicate with you throughout the process.

Fortunately, most people have not experienced going through the process of pursuing a wrongful death claims. We understand that you likely have many questions. Our lawyers take pride in being personally available to answer your questions. We do not leave our clients in the dark.

We understand that losing a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence is a life-altering, overwhelming situation. We can help you hold the responsible party accountable, and work to provide financial security for your family. Call us to learn more about the best way to proceed with a wrongful death claim.

Our wrongful death attorneys will work toward gaining the largest possible settlement for you. Call Montoya Hinckley at (509) 895-7373 for a free consultation today.

Attorney Kevan Montoya

Attorney Kevan MontoyaFor over thirty years, Mr. Montoya has successfully represented clients in litigation involving multi-million dollar cases involving wrongful death, employment and business and commercial disputes. He regularly counsels businesses in Yakima and Central Washington on employment policies and helps businesses train employees regarding employment law compliance. He regularly speaks on employment issues. [ Attorney Bio ]


Attorney Tyler Hinckley

Attorney Tyler HinckleyTyler Hinckley represents individuals and businesses in state and federal court in litigation involving personal injury, property damage, employment claims, and business and commercial disputes. He represents individuals and businesses in a variety of employment cases, including wrongful termination, wage and hour, employment discrimination, and retaliation. Additionally, he represents individuals in residential construction defect and construction contract disputes, easement and boundary line disputes, and in cases involving damage to real property. Tyler also represents clients in administrative proceedings before state administrative agencies. [ Attorney Bio ]

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