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How are proceeds from a wrongful death claim distributed?

When tragedy strikes Pennsylvania families, family members often come closer together to provide love and support to one another. This can be especially true after a loved one is killed by someone else's actions.

Last week, this blog discussed how surviving family members may have a wrongful death claim they can assert against the person responsible for the death of a loved one. There are different kinds of damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death action. For instance, the loss of income may be one type of easily identifiable damages, as it can leave surviving spouses and children with a diminished income stream after their loved one's death.

Under Pennsylvania law, there are certain rules in place that govern how this compensation is to be distributed among the surviving family members. After a verdict, judgment or settlement is reached that awards compensation in a wrongful death action, the court may issue an order that sets out which persons are entitled to share in those damages. The court's order can also designate the share of the proceeds that each person is entitled to receive.

These issues can become tricky if minor children are involved. The court may designate a guardian of the minor as the person who may receive the compensation. If the child has no guardian, then the court may order the amount that goes to the child to be distributed in a different manner. Likewise, other issues like structured settlements or trust accounts can impact how the proceeds are to be distributed. Accordingly, the distribution of proceeds will vary from case to case, depending on which surviving family members claim an interest in the matter and what circumstances are involved.

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Source: The Pennsylvania Code, "Chapter 2200. Actions for Wrongful Death," accessed on Oct. 1, 2016

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