Although many people seem to think a wrongful death action is a criminal case, it is not. A wrongful death action is a civil suit with the award called a structured settlement.
Those who have experienced the loss of a loved one thanks to the actions of another individual or a company may file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit in civil court. Perhaps the best example of a potential wrongful death suit is the proposed suit to be launched by Katherine Jackson, Michael Jackson’s mother.
The people who choose to bring the lawsuit are called plaintiffs and the people they file the suit against are called defendants. The main difference between civil and criminal actions is that in a civil action damages are awarded to the plaintiff and in a criminal lawsuit it’s the state taking action after a crime has been committed.
The kind of damages awarded in civil cases tends to vary from state to state and it’s best to consult with a skilled wrongful death attorney for further information. Some of the factors taken into consideration when an award is determined have to do with how the deceased handled money while alive, what income would have been earned had they lived (future earnings), the cost of the death which includes medical and funeral expenses, and the suffering and pain of the family left behind to cope without their deceased family member. Awards in these kinds of cases are typically referred to as a settlement, and are usually paid out over a “structured or specified” length of time.
Structured settlements are handled in a variety of ways. Typically, once the award has been made a structured settlement factoring transaction kicks in, letting the family get a lump sum payment instead of many smaller, proportioned amounts. At this point some plaintiffs opt to sell their rights to get all or part of their future payments immediately. This is something that definitely needs to be discussed with a highly qualified wrongful death attorney, as although there may be advantages to selling the structured settlement, it isn’t the right route to go for everyone.
It’s not unusual for people to sell their settlements to get money up front because in most instances by the time the award comes through they are in need of money to pay overdue bills and other expenses such as educational needs, improved housing, different transport, and unexpected and continuing medical bills and rehabilitation.