Understanding Who Gets the Money from a Wrongful Death Settlement: A Clear Guide

If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to a wrongful death settlement. Trying to understand the legal system during such a difficult time can be overwhelming, which is why Wendt Law is here to help.

At our firm, we provide compassionate and dedicated legal representation to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Don’t face this process alone; call us today at 816-531-4415 for a free initial case evaluation and let us guide you every step of the way.

Wrongful Death Laws in Kansas and Missouri

A page that says wrongful death.The landscapes of wrongful death laws in Kansas and Missouri, while similar, hold their own nuances. In Kansas, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is 2 years from the date of death. This means that the surviving family members or the deceased’s estate have a two-year window to file a legal claim. On the other hand, Missouri extends this window to three years, albeit with certain exceptions. These time frames are of utmost importance as failing to file a lawsuit within these periods can render your claim void and bar you from seeking justice.

Moreover, both states have caps on the total compensation recoverable in wrongful death claims. This means that the damages awarded to the beneficiaries could be limited, regardless of the actual financial and emotional losses they have suffered. Furthermore, the two states have different rules regarding shared fault and types of recoverable damages in wrongful death cases. They also have specific guidelines as to which family members are eligible to file and benefit from a wrongful death lawsuit. These aspects underscore the importance of having an experienced wrongful death attorney who can effectively help you through these laws and ensure the right results for your case.

Deciphering the Beneficiaries of a Wrongful Death Settlement

The heartache of losing a loved one is often amplified by the financial hardships that follow. A wrongful death settlement aims to alleviate these hardships by compensating the beneficiaries for their losses. But who exactly are these beneficiaries? The beneficiaries of wrongful death settlements typically include the deceased person’s immediate family members, such as their spouse, children, or parents. The distribution of the settlement amount is determined based on the specific laws and circumstances surrounding the case. The answer to this can vary depending on the state in question.

In Kansas, ‘heirs at law’ such as the surviving spouse, children, parents or grandparents, and siblings of the deceased may file a wrongful death lawsuit. This means that these immediate family members are eligible to seek compensation for their losses.

In contrast, Missouri designates the following as the primary class eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • The decedent’s spouse
  • Children
  • Lineal descendants of deceased children
  • Parents

If no one from this primary class is available to file a claim, then siblings or their descendants may step in to do so. This distinct hierarchy of beneficiaries in Missouri ensures that the compensation is directed to those most affected by the loss of the deceased.

Eligibility Criteria for Claimants

Both Kansas and Missouri prioritize the immediate family members of the deceased.

This means that these family members have the first right to file a wrongful death lawsuit and seek compensation for their losses.

In Missouri, the law is slightly more structured. According to Missouri Statute 537.080, the deceased’s spouse, children, and parents are prioritized as the primary claimants in wrongful death lawsuits. This is referred to as Class 1 beneficiaries. If there are no surviving primary claimants, the law allows siblings, or descendants of siblings, to step in as secondary eligible claimants, also known as Class 2 beneficiaries. In the absence of direct family members or siblings, the court may appoint a plaintiff ad litem to file a wrongful death claim.

Therefore, the eligibility to file a claim and receive compensation is not limited to just immediate family members, but extends to other family members and relatives too, albeit in a particular order.

Allocation of Settlement Funds

Once a wrongful death claim is successful, the next question is: how are the settlement funds allocated among the beneficiaries? This is largely determined by the deceased person’s will, statutory guidelines according to state law, and the unique circumstances of each case. This means that the allocation of funds is not a one-size-fits-all process, but rather a nuanced one that takes into account multiple factors.

The Role of the Personal Representative in Wrongful Death Claims

When a wrongful death claim is filed, a crucial figure in the process is the personal representative. Also known as an executor or administrator, this individual is tasked with managing the deceased person’s estate and is often appointed by the deceased person before death, or by the court if no representative was designated. They hold an indispensable role in ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are fulfilled and the deceased person’s estate, is managed well.

In certain jurisdictions, the personal representative holds the exclusive right to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased’s estate. This means that they become the plaintiff in the wrongful death claim and are responsible for engaging in difficult legal processes, including court trials or settlement discussions. They are also tasked with understanding state-specific statutes regarding the division of the settlement.

Upon securing a settlement, their duties extend to identifying the estate’s assets, addressing any debts, and ensuring the appropriate distribution of the remaining assets to beneficiaries. Therefore, choosing the right personal representative is of utmost importance in safeguarding the interests of the deceased and their beneficiaries.

Types of Damages Awarded in Wrongful Death Cases

In wrongful death cases, the goal is to compensate the beneficiaries for their losses. These losses are typically categorized into economic and non-economic damages, and sometimes punitive damages. Each type of damage serves a unique purpose in providing restitution to the beneficiaries.

Economic damages may encompass financial losses such as:

  • Medical costs incurred prior to death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of income and earnings capacity of the deceased, which can include wages, benefits, pension, or retirement benefits.

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, may address intangible losses like:

  • pain and suffering
  • emotional distress
  • loss of companionship or consortium
  • loss of enjoyment of life

These damages are inherently difficult to measure yet constitute a significant aspect of the wrongful death claim. In some cases, especially where the defendant’s misconduct was particularly egregious, punitive damages may also be awarded with the aim of punishing the defendant and deterring similar conduct in the future.

Economic Damages and Their Distribution

Economic damages in wrongful death cases cover a wide range of financial losses. These can include:

  • Out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills and funeral costs
  • Lost wages
  • The value of services that the deceased would have provided, such as childcare and household maintenance
  • The family’s lost benefits like health insurance coverage, expected gifts and inheritances
  • Any non-financial support previously provided by the deceased

The calculation of economic damages takes into account the age and earning potential of the victim, aiming to recover what they would have contributed economically over their expected lifetime. Therefore, the economic damages awarded in wrongful death cases aim to provide financial relief to the beneficiaries and ensure that they are not left in a precarious financial situation due to the loss of their loved ones.

Non-Economic Damages: Valuing the Intangible Losses

While economic damages cover financial losses, non-economic damages cater to the emotional and psychological impact experienced by the beneficiaries. They are intended to compensate for intangible losses such as:

  • physical pain and discomfort
  • loss of enjoyment of life
  • emotional distress
  • mental anguish and trauma
  • scarring and disfigurement
  • disabilities
  • permanent impairments

Non-economic damages also take into account the loss of consortium, which refers to the void left by the loss of love, companionship, guidance, and support of the deceased. The valuation of non-economic damages can be influenced by various factors such as the ages and specific needs of the victim’s dependents. For instance, young children may face profound consequences from the loss of parental support, and this is taken into consideration when awarding non-economic damages.

Although these losses are difficult to quantify, they form an integral part of the compensation awarded as money in wrongful death cases.

How Wendt Law Can Assist in Securing Justice for Your Family

Facing wrongful death claims and understanding the complexities of the law can be overwhelming, especially while dealing with the loss of a loved one. At Wendt Law, we aim to shoulder this burden for you. Our team provides effective legal representation that can greatly impact the settlement amounts and secure favorable results for families in wrongful death action cases, including those involving a wrongful death suit. We are recognized for our excellence in personal injury representation across Missouri and Kansas, and our mission is focused on securing maximum compensation for victims of negligence.

In addition to our knowledge, we also offer a risk-free guarantee. Wendt Law operates on a contingency fee basis, which aligns our interests with those of our clients. This means that our fees are derived as a percentage of the recovery, incentivizing us to maximize our clients’ compensation. If the lawsuit does not result in a favorable outcome, our clients owe nothing in legal fees. Therefore, with Wendt Law, you not only get effective legal representation but also a financial safety net.

We want to be able to fight by your side, giving you the representation you deserve and putting your mind at ease. To set up a free consultation with our team, call us today at 816-531-4415.

Free Initial Case Evaluation

As part of our commitment to serving our clients, Wendt Law offers a free consultation specifically for wrongful death cases. This initial consultation gives you an opportunity to discuss the specifics of your case with our experienced attorneys. We provide honest legal advice and assess the potential for a valid claim.

This free initial case evaluation is designed to help you understand your rights and determine your eligibility for financial recovery without any risk or obligation. Interested parties can contact Wendt Law for a free consultation by calling 816-531-4415, or reaching out through our online contact options. We are here to help you through your legal journey and secure the justice your loved one deserves.

Contingency Fee Basis: No Financial Risk

At Wendt Law, we understand that the financial burden of a wrongful death can be overwhelming. That’s why we operate strictly on a contingency fee basis. This means that you are not required to pay any upfront fees, removing the burden of immediate legal costs.

Our contingency fee arrangement also offers a risk-free guarantee. If the wrongful death lawsuit does not result in a favorable conclusion, you owe nothing in legal fees. This ensures that you face no financial risk in seeking justice for your loved one.

At Wendt Law, your peace of mind is our priority.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does the money come from in a wrongful death?

The compensation for wrongful death typically comes from the negligent party’s insurance policy, such as auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, medical malpractice insurance, or premises liability insurance. This is determined based on the circumstances of the wrongful death.

What types of wrongful death cases does Wendt Law handle?

Wendt Law specializes in a variety of wrongful death cases, including but not limited to automobile accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, defective products, and premises liability. Our experienced team is dedicated to providing compassionate legal representation to families who have lost a loved one due to another party’s negligence or intentional harm. We understand the intricacies of each type of case and work diligently to ensure that justice is served and that families receive the compensation they are entitled to.

Is money received from a wrongful death lawsuit taxable?

No, money received from a wrongful death lawsuit is generally not taxable, as it is classified as part of a claim resulting from personal injuries or physical illness according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Can multiple parties be held responsible for a wrongful death?

Yes, in wrongful death cases, it is possible for multiple parties to be held responsible. This can occur when several parties’ actions or negligence contributed to the circumstances that led to the death. For instance, in the case of a car accident, both the driver and the manufacturer of a faulty vehicle part may be found liable. In medical malpractice cases, both the doctor and the hospital could be held accountable. The legal concept of “joint and several liability” may apply, allowing the plaintiff to recover the full amount of damages from any one of the responsible parties, who can then seek contributions from the other liable parties.

How are wrongful death settlements distributed?

Wrongful death settlements are distributed according to specific rules. If there is a surviving spouse and no children, the spouse receives 100% of the proceeds. If there is a surviving spouse and 1 child, the proceeds are split equally. If there are 2 children and a surviving spouse, the proceeds are divided 1/3 each. Additionally, any portion of the settlement for pain and suffering is paid to the decedent’s estate, with the remainder distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries according to intestacy laws, with half going to the surviving spouse and the other half to surviving children.

What factors can affect the amount of a wrongful death settlement?

The amount of a wrongful death settlement can be influenced by a variety of factors, including the age and earning potential of the deceased, the number of dependents, the degree of negligence involved, and the specific laws of the state where the lawsuit is filed. Additionally, the presence of a will, the type of damages claimed, and the available insurance coverage can also play significant roles in determining the final settlement amount.

How is the money split in a wrongful death lawsuit?

In a wrongful death lawsuit, if there are surviving parents but no spouse or children, the parents will share the money equally. If the person’s spouse and children survived, the spouse will receive the first $30,000. This is how the money is split in such cases.

What is the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Kansas and Missouri?

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Kansas is 2 years from the date of death, and in Missouri, it is generally 3 years with certain exceptions.


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