How Is Money Distributed After A Fatal Accident?

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “What exactly is a wrongful death claim?”


A fatal accident involving a loved one is a tragedy that no one should have to endure. Though tragic, these kinds of incidents occur with alarming frequency. Car crashes, semi-truck accidents, motorcycle wrecks, workplace accidents, medical malpractice and the use of defective products are just some examples of accidents that can result in the death of a victim. In these cases, when the victim passes away before the personal injury judgment has been distributed, what happens to the money? To find out, keep reading.


Question mark Charlotte Wrongful Death Attorney Mecklenburg Injury LawyerThough loved ones have far more important things to contend with than the distribution of a personal injury judgment, it is important where and how the money is ultimately distributed. In most cases involving the death of a personal injury victim, there will be two kinds of claims brought against the defendant: 1) a wrongful death claim and 2) a survivorship claim.


What is a wrongful death claim? Wrongful death claims can be brought by a decedent’s family to recover money for damages the family has suffered. These wrongful death claims typically involve payment for lost wages that the family members may have depended on, reimbursement of medical expenses and pain and suffering experienced by the family.


What is a survivorship claim? A survivorship or survival claim is similar in that it can be filed by the decedent’s estate, but what is different is that it is aimed at compensating the victim for the pain and suffering he or she experienced before his or her death. A survival action allows the estate to step in and act on behalf of the victim.


In a wrongful death claim, any money recovered from the defendant is typically distributed in the same way that it would be had the person died without a will, meaning according to state intestacy rules. Precisely how this is divided depends on whether you’re married or have children. This differs from survival actions where the proceeds from a settlement or judgment are paid out to beneficiaries of the state in accordance with the instructions of the person’s will.


This difference means that wrongful death claims and survival actions can result in different people receiving different amounts of money. For instance, if a child or other heir was not included in a person’s will, he or she would lose out on proceeds from a survival action, but could still stand to recover something under a wrongful death claim.


Given the differences, it’s important to consult a lawyer. Depending on the claims being brought, not only will the will need to be consulted, but you’ll need to understand who are the legal heirs.


If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.


About the Author

Matt Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.





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