Archive for the ‘ Wrongful Death ’ Category

Drunk Driving And Compensation For Wrongful Death

Posted on: January 21, 2018 by in Wrongful Death
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Across the United States in 2016, more than 10,000 people were killed in traffic accidents involving intoxicated drivers. More than ten percent of those fatalities – over a thousand – happened right here in California.

Keep reading, and you’ll learn what your family’s rights are if you lose a loved one tragically and unexpectedly in this state because another driver was irresponsible and intoxicated.

When any kind of negligence – including driving under the influence – causes another person’s accidental death, California law entitles the surviving family members to compensation.

If you’ve lost a family member because another person was driving under the influence, arrange immediately to discuss your family’s rights and options with an experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney.

Obviously, after the tragic and unexpected death of a loved one, the surviving family members must deal with their personal grief and suffering, and it is one of life’s most difficult moments.

At such a time, your family will be facing a variety of daunting emotional and legal matters simultaneously.

WHO CAN FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM IN ORANGE COUNTY?

No sum of money can ever sufficiently compensate a family for the unanticipated loss of a beloved family member.

Nevertheless, in spite of the difficulties, wrongful death claims must be initiated as early as possible.

A wrongful death claim can hold responsible parties accountable and help family members deal with the financial implications of a wrongful death.

Who qualifies to file a wrongful death claim in California?

  • a surviving spouse or domestic partner of the decedent
  • children of the decedent
  • any person who would be entitled to inherit from the decedent
  • persons dependent on the decedent at the time of death, potentially including a putative spouse and his or her children, and stepchildren or parents of the decedent (A “putative” spouse is the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is determined by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid.)
  • a minor who has resided with the decedent for at least 180 days in the decedent’s home and was dependent on the decedent for at least fifty percent of his or her support

If an intoxicated driver is allegedly the negligent party in a wrongful death case, that driver will probably be charged by the state with DUI manslaughter, and a criminal conviction for DUI manslaughter will be powerfully persuasive evidence in support of your family’s wrongful death claim.

WHAT ARE SURVIVING FAMILY MEMBERS ENTITLED TO?

If the impaired driver carried automobile insurance coverage, the surviving family members of the impaired driver’s victim may file a wrongful death claim for their financial and emotional damages.

Survivors are entitled to damages for the deceased victim’s lost wages and lost earning capacity, for their pain, suffering, loss of companionship and consortium, and even for the deceased person’s final medical bills and funeral expenses.

Three types of damages can be awarded in wrongful death cases in California.

“Compensatory” damages compensate quantifiable monetary losses like lost income, medical bills, and funeral costs.

Non-economic damages compensate surviving family members for pain, suffering, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium.

“Punitive damages” are intended to punish the negligent party – called the “defendant” in a personal injury case – for the defendant’s negligent behavior.

Punitive damages are rarely awarded in California wrongful death cases, but if driving under the influence is involved, surviving family members are more likely to be awarded punitive damages because driving under the influence is a crime.

Every wrongful death case is unique, so you’ll need the advice of an Orange County wrongful death attorney regarding the details of any particular case.

HOW ARE WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS SETTLED?

The surviving family member who brings a wrongful death claim is called the “plaintiff,” and that person usually brings the claim as the representative of the decedent’s family.

Wrongful death claims are often settled out of court before any trial can begin.

Usually, the lawyers for both sides are able to reach a settlement that is acceptable to all parties involved.

When no acceptable settlement amount is offered and a wrongful death lawsuit goes to trial, the plaintiff’s side must prove the three “elements” of a wrongful death claim.

Generally speaking, the three elements that must be proven are the duty of care, the breach of that duty, and the causation of wrongful death:

In a wrongful death case, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant owed the deceased person a “duty of care.”

For instance, in the case of a wrongful death arising from a DUI accident, the plaintiff must show that the defendant a had duty to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians to obey traffic laws and drive safely.

A plaintiff also must show that a defendant breached the duty of care that was owed to the decedent.

In a DUI wrongful death case, if the defendant tested over the legal limit for drinking and driving (a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 percent), or if the defendant is convicted of the criminal DUI charge, there is strong evidence that the duty of care was breached.

Finally, a plaintiff in a DUI wrongful death case must prove that the breach of the duty of care – in this case, by driving under the influence – was a direct cause of the decedent’s wrongful death.

IS THERE A TIME LIMIT FOR SURVIVORS TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION?

Surviving family members must file a wrongful death claim as soon as possible after a wrongful death.

The statute of limitations in the state of California for a wrongful death claim arising from a traffic collision is two years from the date of the family member’s death, but you cannot wait two years and then try to act at the last minute.

Evidence and memories will deteriorate or disappear over time.

Instead, take your wrongful death case as soon as possible to a skilled Orange County wrongful death attorney who will review the DUI accident and the details of the case, gather evidence and questions witnesses, and then fight on your family’s behalf for the compensation you need.

Probably nothing is more emotionally disturbing than the sudden and abrupt loss of a loved one, especially when the death was caused by a stranger’s irresponsible negligence and was entirely preventable.

Here in California, the law guarantees that surviving loved ones will have the opportunity to seek the justice and compensation they need and deserve.

Wrongful Death – And Your Family

Posted on: June 25, 2017 by in Wrongful Death
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In any family, the sudden, accidental, and unexpected loss of a loved one will cause profound anguish, but when someone’s negligence has caused another person’s accidental death, the deceased person’s surviving family members are legally entitled to compensation under California law. In this state, it does not matter how a wrongful death happens; if someone else’s negligence was a direct cause of a wrongful death, that person can be held legally accountable when the surviving family members file a wrongful death claim and seek compensation.

Wrongful death claims in this state may arise from fatal traffic collisions or from any other avoidable negligence that leads to someone’s accidental death. In Southern California, if you suddenly and unexpectedly lose a member of your family because another person has been negligent, discuss your case as soon as possible with an experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE WRONGFUL DEATH OF HUN JOON LEE?

In June, the surviving family members of an autistic teen who died in Whittier in 2015 agreed to a $23.5-million settlement of their wrongful death claim. The body of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, 19, was found in a bus at a Whittier bus yard in September 2015. The teenager sweltered to death inside the bus. The outside temperature that day was 96 degrees. The bus driver, Armando Abel Ramirez of Rialto, did not check to ensure that everyone had left the bus.

The youth’s parents sued the bus agency, Pupil Transportation Cooperative, which provides bus service to the Whittier Union High School District. The lawsuit states that Hun Joon Lee boarded a bus bound for the Sierra Vista Adult School that morning but did not return home that afternoon. Another driver later found Lee passed out inside the bus. Armando Abel Ramirez was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted on the criminal charge of felony dependent adult abuse resulting in death.

It was not the first time that a driver for the Pupil Transportation Cooperative left a student on a bus. Debbie LaJoie, a former director of transportation for Pupil Transportation Cooperative, stated in a deposition prior to the settlement that as many as four special-education students had been left on the company’s buses from 2006 through 2015. She said that the drivers involved in those incidents had not been terminated.

The chief executive officer of Pupil Transportation Cooperative, Steve Bui, said in a statement: “It has been our priority to reach a resolution with the family of Paul Lee. Though nothing will ever ease the pain they have endured, we have worked diligently to refine our policies to ensure that something like this never happens again. PTC remains dedicated to providing safe, high-quality transportation services to the children and families in our communities.”

HOW DID LAWMAKERS RESPOND TO HUN JOON LEE’S DEATH?

Last year, in response to Hun Joon Lee’s death and similar school bus incidents, the California State Legislature approved new legislation that will enhance the safety of young people on school buses. The new law, which will take effect beginning with the 2018-2019 school year, requires all buses in this state to be equipped with child safety alarms, and it additionally requires all bus drivers to receive annual child-safety training.

Statistically speaking, school buses are extraordinarily safe vehicles, and they are designed with safety in mind. In fact, most school bus-related injuries and fatalities do not even happen on a bus. They happen off the bus in what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls the “Danger Zone,” the area within ten feet of the bus in every direction. School bus-related fatalities are infrequent and tragic. Deaths like Hun Joon Lee’s are extremely rare exceptions.

Obviously, when someone loses a loved one in a wrongful death here in southern California, no amount of money will relieve the pain, but a wrongful death claim can at least help the surviving family members to meet their immediate financial responsibilities and to avoid any potential financial hardship. A wrongful death claim holds accountable the person or persons that were negligent and thus responsible for the wrongful death.

WHO MAY PURSUE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM IN CALIFORNIA?

In California, your legal right to file a wrongful death claim hinges on your relationship with the deceased person. In this state, the deceased person’s surviving spouse, surviving children, or surviving domestic partner may bring a wrongful death claim. Only when there are no surviving spouses, partners, or children, a wrongful death claim may be filed by anyone “entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession,” including the deceased person’s parents or siblings. Stepchildren may also file a wrongful death claim if they can prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased stepparent.

Typically in the state of California, wrongful death claims are settled through out-of-court negotiations. Lawyers for both sides are usually able to reach an agreement that is acceptable to everyone involved. If the parties cannot agree and a wrongful death case goes to trial, the plaintiff (the person filing the wrongful death claim) must prove that the defendant (the person who allegedly was negligent) owed the deceased person a “duty of care” and must also prove that the duty of care was breached. Finally, the plaintiff must prove that the breach of duty was a direct cause of the wrongful death.

Of course, when you’ve suddenly and tragically lost someone you love, even talking about legal matters can be quite difficult. Nevertheless, you must file a wrongful death claim swiftly. In most circumstances, the California statute of limitations requires the surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim within two years of the date of the death, with several exceptions (explained below).

If a wrongful death was a result of medical malpractice, a claim must be filed within three years of the death. When the government or any government agency, including a county or state hospital, is named as the defendant in a wrongful death claim, the initial claim must be filed within six months of the death. Do not wait six months or two years. Your family needs to put an experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney on the case as soon as possible.

When a family member dies a wrongful death because of somebody else’s negligence, few of us are prepared to deal with the inevitable legal and emotional issues that will arise. A good wrongful death lawyer, however, will be sensitive to the emotions and needs of the surviving family members while working diligently for the justice and compensation that survivors are entitled to by California law.

Rental Cars and Damaged Property: Who Pays?

Posted on: August 24, 2016 by in Wrongful Death
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Thousands of traffic accidents happen every year in southern California. Luckily, most vehicle accident claims do not involve physical injuries, so most people end up handling such claims without legal assistance. Even if someone with property damage wants the case handled, let’s say, by an Orange County personal injury attorney, the truth is that most car accident lawyers will not handle claims for property damages only.

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Thus, automobile insurance companies have sometimes been known to take advantage of the victim in a property damage case because they know that the victim has no legal counsel. The information presented here is intended to help traffic accident victims in California protect their rights after accidents involving rental vehicles that cause property damage but no physical injuries.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE CAUSED BY A RENTAL CAR?

Who is responsible for paying property damage when the damage was caused by a rental car? Prior to 1990, the legal doctrine of “vicarious liability” allowed courts to impose responsibility on one party (like a car rental company) for the actions of another party (like a driver), even if the first party was not negligent. Since the Graves Amendment became federal law in 1990, in most cases, car rental companies now have no liability. The law says:

“An owner of a motor vehicle that rents or leases the vehicle to a person (or an affiliate of the owner) shall not be liable under the law of any State or political subdivision thereof, by reason of being the owner of the vehicle (or an affiliate of the owner), for harm to persons or property that results or arises out of the use, operation, or possession of the vehicle during the period of the rental or lease, if (1) the owner (or an affiliate of the owner) is engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles; and (2) there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner (or an affiliate of the owner).”

In other words, because Hertz or Avis did not directly cause an accident or damages, they have no financial liability. You’ll have to look directly to the driver of the rental vehicle and his or her own auto insurance company. If the accident wasn’t your fault, but the other driver’s insurance company won’t “accept liability” right away, this is usually because the company has not been able to contact the driver to obtain that driver’s version of the accident. The insurance company is obligated by contract to investigate a claim completely prior to paying the claim.

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Normally, a comprehensive investigation entails getting the driver’s version of events even in clear liability collisions. The best way to get around this and have your vehicle repaired quickly is to have damage by a rental vehicle covered under your own collision coverage policy or simply pay for the damages out of pocket and wait for your reimbursement until the insurance company accepts liability.

WHAT IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY WON’T PAY (OR WON’T PAY ENOUGH)?

Regarding vehicular damages, California and most other states entitle victims of property damage to either the amount it costs to repair the vehicle or the fair market value of the vehicle if it is a total loss. “Fair market value” is what you could probably get for the vehicle if you sold it used. Kelly’s Blue Book will tell you the fair market value of your own vehicle. If the insurance company offers you an amount that is close to the Kelly’s Blue Book figure, it’s probably a fair offer.

Unfortunately, many people still owe more on a vehicle than the vehicle is currently worth. These consumers may end up having to pay off a loan for a vehicle that has been totaled. Other people may have an older vehicle that they know is reliable but nevertheless, has a low resale value, so they may not be able to recover enough to buy a comparably reliable vehicle. If you fall into one of these two categories, you may have to accept what you’re offered and live with the loss.

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You do not have to have repairs done at the insurance company’s recommended repair shop. You can have your vehicle worked on by any certified mechanic. However, if the repairs exceed what the insurance company is offering to pay, or if additional work is required, the shop will have to obtain permission from the insurance company to ensure that they will be paid for the work. It may be easier to work with the insurance company’s approved repair shop because they routinely work through these matters with the company.

If a vehicle is totaled, the insurance company may ask you to have the title transferred to them so that they can sell it for salvage. If that happens and if you are still making payments, the bank or finance company must first release their interest in the vehicle. This means that the insurance company will need to learn how much is still owed and will have to pay that amount first. Any money remaining will be yours.

If the insurance company puts you in a rental vehicle, it should be comparable to the vehicle it replaces. This can be critical when a driver needs a particular type of vehicle for work or business. The insurance company should at least provide a rental that is suitable for the same purpose. Don’t demand the exact same vehicle, but you can insist on something that’s basically equivalent to the vehicle that was damaged or totaled.

As mentioned previously, most attorneys are not interested in cases that are exclusively about vehicle damage. If you take an insurance company to court on your own in order to recover property damages, have your own estimate of the vehicle damage, or if it is a total loss, your own numbers establishing the fair market value of the vehicle. Make sure that you are prepared with a “lost value” report, which can be obtained for a fee from a certified vehicle appraiser (who may or may not be needed to testify on your behalf).

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WHAT IF YOU SUFFER MORE THAN JUST PROPERTY DAMAGE?

Of course, if you suffer more than property damage due to another driver’s carelessness or negligence in southern California – that is, if you sustain a physical personal injury because of negligence in a traffic accident – you’ll want to discuss your legal rights and options, which may include a personal injury lawsuit, with an experienced Orange County personal injury attorney as quickly as possible after obtaining medical attention.

California drivers should know one last detail about collisions and property damage. Under the California Vehicle Code, if you damage someone’s property with a vehicle, and you don’t stop or leave a note, you’ve committed a misdemeanor that “upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both that imprisonment and fine.” This is the law whether you’re driving a rental vehicle or your own vehicle. If you still have questions regarding collisions, rental vehicles, and property damage, don’t hesitate to ask an attorney or your own auto insurance company.

How to Prove A Wrongful Death in A Civil Case in California

Posted on: July 31, 2016 by in Wrongful Death
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If you lose a loved one in an accident as the result of another person’s negligent, reckless, or careless action or inaction, you’ll have to deal with genuinely tough emotional and legal matters all at once. It may be difficult, but you must consider filing a unfair loss claim as quickly as possible. When carelessness or negligence is the reason for a sudden, accidental death, surviving family members are legally entitled to compensation.

It doesn’t matter how a unfairly loss took place (with one exception discussed below). If another person’s negligence causes an accidental death, that person may be held legally responsible in the state of California with an illicit loss lawsuit – a legal claim for compensation. For example, if medical negligence results in a patient’s death, the survivors can pursue an illicit end lawsuit against the negligent healthcare provider(s) and/or the medical facility where the death occurred.

Other types of wrongful deaths include fatal car accidents caused by impaired or otherwise negligent drivers; a slip-and-fall from a staircase or a balcony because of a broken safety railing; or a fatal reaction to a pharmaceutical drug because of insufficient directions and warnings. Wrongly losses happen every day in California, in almost every way and in almost every setting you can imagine.

Whenever someone’s death is caused by someone else’s negligence (or by the negligence of more than one person), the survivors usually have the right to bring a civil lawsuit against the person or persons who were negligent. Although the details regarding unfair departure and the rights of survivors differ from state to state, each state’s wrongful death laws are based on the same basic legal principles.

PRECISELY WHAT IS A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages. In some states, only the surviving members of a decedent ’s immediate family qualify to bring a unfair departure action. In other states, in rare cases, someone other than a family member – but still close to the decedent – may have legal grounds to file a wrongly loss claim. The person bringing the action is called the plaintiff, and the person accused of negligence is called the defendant.

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Typically, the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit is an immediate family member suing on behalf of everyone in the decedent’s immediate family. A wrongful death lawsuit charges that a defendant acted negligently and was thus directly responsible for the decedent’s wrongful death. After a wrongly departure claim is filed, attorneys for both sides will usually attempt to reach a negotiated out-of-court settlement.

IN A WRONGFUL DEATH CASE, WHAT MUST A PLAINTIFF PROVE?

When an out-of-court agreement cannot be achieved, a plaintiff must then prove in court that his or her loved one’s loss meets the legal definition of a wrongful death. To prevail with a wrongful afterlife claim, a plaintiff must prove to the court that the defendant was negligent and that the negligence was the direct cause of the decedent’s death. Here are the precise legal points that a plaintiff must make persuasively:

  1. Duty of Care: First, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed what the law calls a “duty of care” to the decedent. For example, drivers owe others a duty to drive carefully. Property owners have a duty to eliminate potential hazards on their properties. And pharmaceutical companies are obliged to test products for safety and to provide adequate directions and warnings.
  2. Breach of Duty: Secondly, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant breached the duty of care owed to the decedent. That is, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent.
  3. Cause of death: In a wrongful afterlife case, it is not enough for a plaintiff to prove that a duty of care existed or that it was breached in a negligent manner. A plaintiff must prove that a defendant’s breach of duty – a defendant’s negligence – was the direct cause of the fatality.

A plaintiff must meet the “burden of proof” for each of these three elements to prevail with a personal injury lawsuit. While the language of the law may differ somewhat in each state, most states generally require plaintiffs to prove a case with a “preponderance of the evidence.” In some states, jurors are instructed to decide if it is “more likely than not” that a defendant’s negligence was the direct cause of a wrongful death. In all civil cases, the burden of proof is much lower than criminal cases, where the proof of guilt must be “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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If a plaintiff in a wrongful death case cannot meet the burden of proof for any one of the three elements listed above, the wrongful death claim will fail, and the decedent’s survivors will not recover damages. As difficult as it may be, if someone loses a family member in southern California because of someone else’s negligence, an experienced Orange County wrongful afterlife attorney can provide the advice and insights that a family will need. In many cases, a wrongful afterlife attorney can quickly determine if a potential plaintiff has legal grounds to file a wrongful death claim and the evidence to prevail.

In almost every case where a death is caused by negligence, a wrongful death lawsuit is the proper response by surviving family members. However, California will not allow survivors to pursue a wrongful death claim for a workplace-related fatality where only the employer and no third party was negligent. Based upon the workers’ compensation “exclusivity rule,” a wrongful afterlife lawsuit against a deceased person’s employer will not be heard, because California courts have determined that fatalities which are strictly work-related do not fall outside of the state’s standard worker’s compensation coverage.

WHAT COMPENSATION CAN WRONGFUL DEATH SURVIVORS EXPECT?

The survivors of a wrongful loss deserve high-quality, aggressive legal representation. Everyone understands that no amount of cash can replace someone you love, but a wrongful loss lawsuit can compensate a family for their medical and funeral expenses, loss of companionship and consortium, future earnings, and lost benefits. Surviving family members may also be compensated for their suffering and emotional distress.

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This has been a general introduction to wrongful death claims, but when a wrongful death actually happens in southern California, an Orange County wrongful death attorney can advise surviving family members regarding their legal rights and best options. Of course, whatever a family recovers in a wrongful death settlement or verdict is no compensation for a human life, but it is still important to hold negligent parties accountable – so that it won’t happen again.

Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable In California?

Posted on: April 25, 2016 by in Wrongful Death
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The sudden, accidental loss of a family member is always deeply shocking and tragic and many survivors have no one to turn to after the unexpected loss of a loved one. If the fatality was an accident caused by the negligence of another person or persons, agood wrongful death attorney can offer the family comprehensive legal resources and seasoned, experienced legal advice. A wrongful loss lawsuit can be filed by surviving family members when a preventable, accidental loss has been caused by another person’s negligence.

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If you’ve lost a loved one in a wrongful death in southern California, obviously, no amount of money can assuage your grief, but a wrongful death settlement or verdict can provide the resources your family may need to move ahead without additional financial concerns. A wrongful loss lawsuit also enables you to hold the responsible party or parties accountable so that justice is satisfied. If you’re the survivor of a wrongful loss victim, speak right away to an experienced Orange County wrongful loss attorney. It may be understandably difficult to focus on legal matters after losing a loved one, but it’s important to launch a wrongful loss claim as quickly as possible.

WHAT ARE “DAMAGES” AND WHAT IS CONSIDERED COMPENSATORY?

In personal injury law, “damages” are the award paid and received for a loss or an injury. The law recognizes both non-economic and economic damages. Economic damages are generally considered compensatory. In an unfairly death claim, for example, economic damages financially compensate the surviving family members for the verifiable, quantifiable losses suffered by the family due to the defendant’s actions leading to the unfairly loss. In other words, economic damages are out-of-pocket expenses that are determined simply by adding up the family’s quantifiable financial losses. If you are awarded punitive damages, however, you are not being compensated – rather, the defendant is being punished – so punitive damages are considered non-economic and non-compensatory.

Surviving family members who receive funds through a unfairly death lawsuit settlement may be concerned about the effect of that money on their federal income tax liability. Since wrongful death verdicts and settlement amounts can be substantial, some fear that receiving their settlement may considerably increase the amount they will owe to the Internal Revenue Service, but most unfairly loss settlements and verdicts are not taxable. This also means that individuals and businesses that are compelled to pay wrongly loss lawsuit settlements and verdicts usually cannot deduct them as a business expense.

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According to the IRS, any lawsuit verdict or settlement amount awarded for compensatory reasons are non-taxable, including wrongful death verdicts and settlements. Wrongful death verdicts and settlements are imposed when a third party is responsible for the physical illness or the injury that resulted in the death. Wrongful death verdicts are usually considered compensation, and as compensatory proceeds they are non-taxable, so those proceeds will have no effect on a recipient’s federal income tax return.

WHAT ARE “PUNITIVE” DAMAGES?

However, if additional, non-compensatory proceeds are awarded in a wrongful death case – for punitive damages, emotional distress, or awards for projected future lost earnings – those payments are considered income and are subject to taxation. In some states and in some cases, courts will award punitive damages to the family of a deceased or injured person in cases when the defendant or defendants responsible for the death acted with gross neglect or disregard.

If you file a wrongful death lawsuit, and if your family and your attorney prevail, you are not required to report strictly compensatory funds on either your personal or business federal income tax returns. However, if the wrongful death verdict or settlement also included additional, non-compensatory damages, those funds are taxable and should be included as “other income” on Line 21 of IRS Form 1040.

SHOULD YOU BE AWARE OF ANY EXCEPTIONS?

There is one important exception. A portion of your compensatory verdict or settlement amount might be taxable if, in any previous years, you took deductions for medical expenses linked to the incident that caused your loved one’s death. If you always claim a standard deduction, you’ll have no problem – you can only claim medical deductions if you itemize. If you did claim medical expenses, then you did not pay taxes on that part of your income, so if you recover money in a settlement or verdict, you must report a portion of the award equal to the amount you deducted. In rare cases, some people’s situations will be quite complicated, but a good wrongful death attorney can answer your tax-related questions or refer you to a tax professional who can.

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While the IRS does not collect income taxes on wrongful death compensation verdicts or settlements, it does count the proceeds as part of the deceased person’s estate for the purposes of estate taxes. However, federal estate taxes won’t be imposed unless the award or settlement pushes the value of your loved one’s estate over $5.25 million (as of 2013). The federal government exempts this much of a taxpayer’s estate before estate taxes can be collected.

HOW DO WRONGFUL DEATHS HAPPEN?

Wrongful deaths can happen in all kinds of situations. For example, in a nursing home setting, if a resident’s urgent need for immediate medical attention is obvious but isn’t dealt with properly by nursing home personnel, and their negligence results in the resident’s death, the family can file a wrongful death claim. An avoidable fatal traffic accident caused by distracted or intoxicated driving is a wrongful death. Some drownings, food poisoning fatalities, and dog bite fatalities are also wrongful deaths.

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WHERE CAN YOU TURN FOR HELP?

If someone you love has died suddenly and accidentally because of another party’s careless or negligent actions, of course your family needs time and privacy. Still, it’s important to act quickly and contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer to determine if you have grounds to file a wrongful death claim. A good wrongful death attorney can work diligently and fight hard on behalf of your family. Obviously, a wrongful death verdict or settlement cannot compensate for the loss of a loved one, but it can ease financial hardships and hold the responsible party accountable. If you have lost a loved one in a wrongful death in southern California, consult at once with an experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney.