How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out in Kentucky?
Losing a loved one is never easy. To make matters worse, your family may have to go through a complicated legal process to pursue justice and financial compensation with a wrongful death lawsuit. The settlement or judgment award that you achieve in a wrongful death claim can help your family pay for related bills and hold someone accountable for the loss of your family member. Find out how wrongful death settlements are paid out in Kentucky to know what to expect.
What Are Typical Damages in a Kentucky Wrongful Death Claim?
First, it can help to know what types of financial compensation – also known as damages – are available in a wrongful death lawsuit in Kentucky. While every case is different, state law qualifies surviving family members to seek financial compensation for certain economic and noneconomic losses. These generally include:
- Reasonable funeral and burial costs.
- Any medical bills associated with the victim’s final injury or illness.
- A lifetime of lost income and employment benefits.
- The victim’s pain and suffering until the time of death.
- The emotional toll and mental anguish of survivors.
- Loss of consortium, or the loss of the loved one’s companionship, love and care.
- Punitive damages, if the death was brought on by gross negligence or intent to harm.
There is no guarantee that your family will receive damages for all of these losses. The settlement or judgment award given – if any – will be suited to the unique situation. Several factors can affect wrongful death damages, such as the age of the victim at the time of death, how many dependents he or she left behind, and how much insurance coverage is available.
Who Is Eligible for Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Different states allow different parties to file wrongful death claims. In Kentucky, the only party that may legally file this type of lawsuit is the personal representative of the deceased. individual’s estate. This person is also referred to as the administrator or executor of the estate. There are exceptions, however, for deaths caused by a deadly weapon (a spouse or child can file) or the death of a minor (the parents can join the legal action).
There are many cases in which the decedent did not name a personal representative before his or her death, such as by leaving behind a will. In this case, the courts will appoint someone to act as the representative, normally a family member or attorney. The personal representative of the estate is who will file the claim, but any financial compensation won will be distributed among beneficiaries.
How Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Distributed in Kentucky?
If a wrongful death claim results in a settlement agreement or judgment award, the damages are typically awarded to both the estate and surviving family members. The settlement will first go to the decedent’s estate to pay off any outstanding debts, such as funeral arrangements and legal fees. Then, any remaining amount will be divided among beneficiaries. Kentucky law lays out a specific way in which wrongful death damages are distributed:
- A surviving spouse will receive the entire amount, unless there are surviving children, in which case the spouse and the children will divide the damages equally.
- If there are surviving children but no surviving spouse, the children will receive the entire amount.
- If there is no surviving spouse or child, the decedent’s parents will receive the award.
- If the decedent did not leave behind a surviving spouse, child or parent, the entire award will go to the estate.
Once the estate pays its debts, any remaining amount will pass to beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will. If there is no will, it will be passed to beneficiaries based on Kentucky’s rules of intestate succession. These rules are complicated and may require you to hire a lawyer for assistance. A lawyer can help you understand what to expect from your wrongful death case, including how a settlement will be paid out.