At our office, we understand that if you are reading this post or calling us about wrongful death lawsuits your world has been turned upside down. You are looking for some assurances that everything will be fine. This may include your financial situation as the primary source of income in your household may have been the victim. This post will help explain some, but not all, of the questions you may have regarding wrongful death settlements. Specifically, we will address the following:
- How much is a wrongful death lawsuit worth?
- Is a wrongful death lawsuit settlement taxable?
- How long does it take to settle a wrongful death suit?
How Much is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to give you a definitive answer to the question: how much is a wrongful death lawsuit worth? Why? There are a couple reasons.
First, a majority of wrongful death settlements are confidential which means giving a true average of what these cases are worth is virtually impossible. On top of that, the settlements that many personal injury lawyers can put on their website are filtered by the lawyer to present larger paydays. Wrongful death settlements can range anywhere from a few thousand to millions of dollars.
Second, many factors determine the value of your wrongful death lawsuit. Every case is as different as the people involved in the accident. So what are some of these factors?
One of the largest factors in determining the value of your case is the age and income of the victim. The reason for this is pretty obvious in that other members of their family depended on that income for their needs (food, rent, mortgage, etc.) If a 30 year old, married, father of two was the primary source of income for his family, his widow loses around 55 years of his life and 30+ years of his income. His children, as well, lose this time with their father.
As mentioned above, the victim’s widow no longer has the family’s primary source of income. Even if she wasn’t a stay-at-home parent, it can be hard to adjust because she may have put off promotions or further education to raise their children. She is behind the pay curve because of these sacrifices and should not be punished for them. For that reason, your wrongful death lawsuit will consider, on average, how much longer the deceased would have worked as well as if they would have received promotions and raises. Obviously, there is no price you can put on a human life, but you should be able to focus on your grieving and healing, not whether you will make your next rent payment.
Another factor that comes into play are state laws. For instance, in some states there are limits to how much you may recover. Luckily, California is not one of these states. Another example is that while California does not provide family members to receive pain and suffering damages, they can receive compensation for loss of any care the victim provided them or loss of companionship.
Finally, another big factor in your compensation are the intangibles. How negligent was the bad guy? Were your witnesses believable? How convincing was your lawyer? All of these are important and vary from case to case.
Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settlement Taxable?
Your loved one just passed away in a tragic accident. You won your wrongful death lawsuit which, while it won’t bring your loved one back, helps with the healing process. Suddenly, April rolls around and it’s time to file your taxes, so you ask your accountant the important question, “Is a wrongful death lawsuit settlement taxable?”
Luckily for you, no, it’s probably not. Internal Revenue Code 104(a)(2) states “[G]ross income does not include . . .the amount of any damages (other than punitive damages) received (whether by suit or agreement and whether as lump sums or as periodic payments) on account of physical injuries or physical sickness.” A settlement is an example of the “agreement” above. With that said, we are not tax attorneys! Please consult with your accountant or tax professional before taking any action!
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Wrongful Death Suit?
One of the most common questions we receive on wrongful death suits is “how long does it take to settle a wrongful death lawsuit? Understandably so. Much like the question above regarding the worth of your case, it is hard to gauge how long a wrongful death suit will take. Our offices have handled cases in which the bad guys settled quickly. Other times the opposing counsel has thought they had a strong case and tried to avoid settling. In these instances, a wrongful death lawsuit can take anywhere from two to four years. Usually, the closer you get to the commencement of a trial, the greater the chance of settlement.
Wrongful death lawsuits are trying times for all members of the family. You shouldn’t have to worry about your financial situation after such a tragic event. If you have any additional questions, call our San Diego office. All consultations are free and there are no obligations.