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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out? Texas Law Explained

In Texas, the surviving family members of a deceased person can sue the parties involved in the untimely death of their loved one for wrongful death settlements. Due to the pain and suffering of the bereaved, wrongful death claims are some of the most difficult cases for a personal injury lawyer to handle.


Such cases, especially when minor children are involved, require a lot of compassion and understanding from the wrongful death lawyer in Houston TX. One of the jobs they are expected to do is to help with the payment of the wrongful death settlement.


In many cases, wrongful death lawsuits result in huge sums of money being awarded to the beneficiaries. As such, careful thought is required regarding how the money will be paid out and distributed among the beneficiaries.


The impressive track record that Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys has in dealing with Texas wrongful death claims makes the law firm a good option for family members seeking compensatory damages and justice for their loved one's death.


Surviving spouses, children, or parents of the deceased person can call the law firm's Houston offices to schedule a free consultation.


What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?


What happens if someone else's negligence causes a loved one's death? Besides the legal process for dealing with criminal acts, Texas also entitles the remaining family members a chance to sue the at-fault party for damages.


This is a wrongful death lawsuit. When handled by competent and reliable wrongful death lawyers, this type of lawsuit allows families to be compensated for the financial and emotional distress that follows a loved one's death.


Under Texas law, immediate family members are entitled to file a wrongful death claim against the negligent party within three months of the date of death. Failing that, the executor of the deceased's estate can file the claim on their behalf.


How Wrongful Death Cases Work: Trial Vs. Settlement


Wrongful death cases in Texas can either go to trial or be handled between both parties involved in out-of-court settlements.


In most wrongful death cases, the at-fault party will make a settlement offer that the deceased's surviving family members can choose to either accept or reject. With a competent attorney negotiating on their behalf, these beneficiaries can be offered a fair settlement amount without ever having to set foot in court.


However, if the two parties cannot reach an agreement regarding the settlement amount, the wrongful death case will have to go to trial. This has the major disadvantage of taking a very long time to be settled. Also, the settlement amount will be decided by a jury verdict, which can choose to award the victims more or less than what they were seeking.


It is, therefore, often in the best interest of both parties to reach a wrongful death settlement without going to court. The insurance company can avoid the risk of having to pay a much higher settlement amount, and the family members of the deceased person can resolve the situation more efficiently.


Possible Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim


Wrongful death settlements are meant to cover a wide range of damages such as economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.


Economic damages are calculated based on the financial compensation that the family is entitled to for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, lost wages, loss of future wages, etc.


On the other hand, non-economic damages in a wrongful death case will be awarded to compensate the family members for their emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of companionship, pain, and suffering.


In some cases, a wrongful death settlement can include punitive damages that the court will impose on the at-fault party if their wrongful actions are deemed to have been on purpose.


Punitive damages are often awarded as a way to deter others from repeating the wrongful act in the future.


Average Wrongful Death Settlement in Texas


It is difficult to say what the average wrongful death settlement payout is in Texas because of the many factors that play a part in the outcome of each case.


However, many wrongful death settlements are worth between $500,000 and $1,000,000, with some being much more than that.


It is even more difficult to estimate how much a jury will award the family in a wrongful death lawsuit that goes through litigation. There are so many factors that can influence a jury's verdict, such as:

  • Involvement of minor children

  • The cause of death

  • Age of the deceased

  • Quantifiable expenses (medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, etc.)

  • The number of dependents

  • Punitive damages

Many of these factors are subject to negotiation, especially if the wrongful death settlement is finalized out of court. This means whichever party has the more aggressive and experienced attorneys has a better chance of coming out on top. They can also assist with questions such as Are wrongful death settlements tax deductible?


One thing the deceased's family members can be sure of is that the insurance company will spare no expense in hiring the best attorneys to help them avoid litigation and paying huge wrongful death settlements. As such, having a top-rated wrongful death lawyer on their side is the best thing to do.


How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?


Texas law allows the beneficiaries and the at-fault party to decide how the wrongful death settlement money will be paid out. The most important thing is that the family must receive the payment in full once all transactions are complete.


With the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer, the settlement funds can be paid out in the following ways:


Lump Sum Payment

After a family member's death, there may be a lot of expensive costs that need to be covered immediately by the surviving spouse, children, or parents.


In such cases, the family member may decide they want their wrongful death compensation as a lump sum payment.


Once the wrongful death settlement has been deposited, the recipient can choose to do whatever they please with it. They can pay off outstanding medical bills, settle legal fees, and spend or invest the money.


Structured Settlement Agreement

If the beneficiary decides to go for a structured settlement payout, they will receive their money in installments at predetermined intervals until the full amount has been paid off.


This has the advantage of protecting the recipient from spending it all in one go, although it makes it difficult to pay off large debts.


The exact timing and the amount of each installment will be determined in a prearranged agreement.


How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Distributed?


How wrongful death settlements are distributed depends on the age of the beneficiaries, and whether or not they agree with the wrongful death claim. Settlements can be distributed depending on the following scenarios:


Distribution in Claims Involving Minor Children as Beneficiaries

The involvement of minor children is one of the biggest factors to consider when deciding how settlements will be distributed.


In such cases, a "guardian ad litem" (court-appointed personal representative of the children) will be chosen to make sure the children's rights are represented. They will fight to make sure that the children receive their fair compensation.


Distribution in Claims Involving Agreeable Adults

If the beneficiaries are adults who agree on how the settlements paid to their loved one's estate should be distributed, the process will be much simpler.


All the recipients will act as one party and there will be no need for any outside interference when it comes to distributing the funds among themselves.


Distribution in Claims Involving Adults Who Are Adversarial

Complications will arise when the beneficiaries are disagreeing on how the settlement should be distributed. One option will be to hire separate attorneys and pursue the litigation process separately. This will make the process a lot more complicated.


Another option will be to hire different legal counsel but instruct the lawyers to work together. While not the ideal solution, this will make negotiating between the legal teams a lot simpler.


Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Taxed?


Typically, the IRS will not tax ordinary wrongful death settlements. Taxed amounts are usually those that have been deemed to be punitive damages or any proceeds that the beneficiary receives after investing their settlement. In any case, the IRS will usually tax a part of the settlement rather than all of it.


What Can Negatively Affect a Texas Wrongful Death Case?


Many things can negatively affect the entire case or the settlement amount that a beneficiary will get from a wrongful death lawsuit. The following are some of the most common:

  • Missing the statute of limitations

  • A deceased loved one without extensive work history or earning potential

  • Deceased with no children or spouse

  • Comparative negligence laws (victim was partially at fault)

  • A personal injury attorney with limited experience in wrongful death settlements


An Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help

An Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help


Families who lose the main person responsible for providing them with financial support can seek compensation from the at-fault party by filing a wrongful death claim. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also help with other situations like Who's liable for construction injuries in Texas?


In Texas, wrongful death settlements can be paid out as lump sum payments or structured settlements. With the help of an experienced attorney, beneficiaries can fight for their rights to receive the financial compensatory damages they deserve.


The doors at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys' Houston law firm are always open to bereaved family members seeking justice and fair settlement for the untimely death of their loved ones.

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