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If you are considering a settlement in a wrongful death case, you may have questions about how the money will be distributed.  One question that we are frequently asked is who gets the money in a wrongful death settlement?

The Alabama laws that govern wrongful death were established to address how property is distributed when someone dies without a will. They are also used in the state to determine who gets the money in wrongful death cases, whether or not the deceased person left a will.

Before you agree to a settlement in a wrongful death action, you should understand the Alabama wrongful death laws and know beforehand who will be the recipient of the funds. The last thing you want would be a fight within the family about who is getting the payout.

How Does Money in a Wrongful Death Settlement Get Distributed?

Here is how wrongful death settlements are distributed in line with Alabama’s intestate succession laws. If the deceased person . . .

  • Was married but did not have children or parents, the spouse gets the entire wrongful death award.
  • Had children but was not married, the children get everything.
  • Was married with children from that marriage, the first $50,000 of an award plus half of the remaining balance goes to the spouse; the children get the rest.
  • Was married with children from outside the marriage, half of the balance goes to the spouse; the children get the rest.
  • Was married, had no children, and had surviving parents, the first $100,000 plus half of what is left goes to the spouse; the parents get the rest.
  • Was not married and did not have children, the parents get the entire wrongful death award.
  • Did not have parents, a spouse, or children, any surviving siblings would get the money.

If the person who died did not have any of these close relatives, the award would go to the next closest family member. These might be grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.

When you ask “who gets the money in a wrongful death settlement?” the answer is that it depends on the makeup of the decedent’s family, which could be a complex situation.

Wrongful Death Recoverable Damages

How damages are awarded in a wrongful death claim in Alabama differs from the way it is handled in other states. In most states, wrongful death damages are intended to compensate survivors for the emotional and financial losses they have suffered due to their loved one’s death. The Alabama legal system does not award damages to compensate survivors. Instead, it awards punitive damages in wrongful death settlements. Punitive damages punish the at-fault person or entity whose wrongful actions caused the death. The idea behind awarding punitive damages is that it will deter the at-fault party, and potentially other parties, from taking careless or negligent actions in the future.

How Are Wrongful Death Lawsuits Paid Out?

Money awarded in wrongful death lawsuits is paid directly to the appropriate family members in accordance with state succession. Money won in a wrongful death lawsuit does not go to the estate. Creditors cannot take it to pay debts the deceased may have had. Additionally, wrongful death lawsuit settlements are not taxed by the state or federal government.

The payment would come after a negotiated settlement with the responsible party’s insurance company. Or, if the case goes to trial and the lawsuit is successful, payment would come following the trial.

Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Alabama?

According to Alabama Code Title 6. Civil Practice § 6-2-38, a decedent has 2 years to file a wrongful death claim. This is very important to remember, because if you file a wrongful death claim after the statute of limitations runs out, your case could get thrown out and you will not receive compensation.

There are occasions where you will have even less time to file a wrongful death claim. If a city government agency caused the death, you only have six months to file a claim. If a county government caused the death, you have 12 months to file a claim.

Choosing the Right Alabama Wrongful Death Lawyer

The attorneys at Caldwell Wenzel & Asthana understand the profound grief and complexity of losing a loved one. As Mobile, AL wrongful death lawyer, we are not only compassionate and understanding, but also aggressive negotiators who will fight for a fair settlement or trial verdict for your family. We believe in holding those responsible for your loss accountable and ensuring your family receives the compensation they deserve.

We will never let the insurance company settle your claim for less than you deserve or attempt to take advantage of you during your greatest time of need. Although there may not be an average wrongful death settlement in Alabama since the value of every person’s case is different, you can rely on our team to prepare a powerful case so you can hold the responsible party accountable and ensure that justice has been served.