If a Personal Injury Victim Dies, Who Gets the Settlement?

wrongful death settlement

One of the usual questions we get at Haffner Law is if a person who files for personal injury dies, what happens to the case, and, more importantly, who gets the settlement if the court awards it?

Here’s what happens if the plaintiff in a personal injury case succumbs to their injuries and dies before they could settle their claims:

  1. The personal injury case becomes a survival action.
  2. The right to pursue the lawsuit and claim the settlement the plaintiff justly deserves automatically goes to the plaintiff’s estate.

What Is a Survival Action?

A “survival action” focuses on the compensation for the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased or decedent. It preserves the deceased’s rights at the moment of death, including the right to receive just compensation for the injuries they sustained due to the defendant’s negligence. Survival actions are different from wrongful death claims — we’ll discuss this in further detail later in this article.

Who Receives the Settlement for a Survival Action?

As mentioned above, the decedent’s estate becomes responsible for continuing survival actions. This means that the personal representative, who may be the lawyer or executor of the deceased, can push through with the case and receive the settlement for the personal injury claims.

What happens to the money if the court awards the claims in a survival action?

All proceeds in survival actions are subject to inheritance and federal estate taxes. The money can also be used to pay any outstanding financial obligation of the decedent. If there’s still some left after paying off all the tax obligations and creditors, the estate can disburse the money according to the decedent’s last will and testament.

Now for another important question: what if the settlement is just enough to pay off the decedent’s taxes and creditors? Can the decedent’s family who might be dependent on him or her file a claim against the defendant as well? The answer is yes, through a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Difference Between Wrongful Death and Survival Action

Survival actions are all about a decedent’s right to receive compensation for their personal injury. A wrongful death lawsuit, on the other hand, addresses the right of the surviving family to seek monetary damages for the death of their loved one. It seeks to compensate them for their losses (e.g., loss of income, if the victim is the breadwinner of the family), pain, and expenses for the victim’s medical and funeral bills.

No amount of money can ease the pain of losing someone you love. Settlement for a wrongful death claim can, however, alleviate the financial burden that could fall on the shoulders of the surviving family.

Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Claim?

The plaintiff gets all the proceeds in this case. The question now is who can file a wrongful death claim?

The specifics differ in each state, but federal law generally gives the right to the victim’s parents, spouse, children, or dependents. A domestic partner may also file a wrongful death claim, but only if their state recognizes common-law or same-sex marriage. California is one of those states.

If the decedent has no legal heirs (i.e., both parents have passed, has no children, is not yet married, and did not explicitly name an heir in their last will and testament), no one can be the plaintiff in the wrongful death case, and the defendant can walk free.

Hire an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

Unlike with survival actions, the damages recovered through wrongful death claims are non-taxable. It is, therefore, an opportunity to fight for the highest wrongful death compensation your family deserves and make the defendant accountable for their negligence. There is, however, the burden of proving that the decedent’s death is due to injury caused by the defendant. You will need a capable, experienced, and fierce wrongful death attorney for this.

You can find such lawyers at Haffner Law. We have attorneys with over 20 years of experience in personal injury cases and have successfully pursued wrongful death claims for clients in California.

Call us at 213-514-5681 to schedule a consultation. You can also speak with our attorneys for a free case review. Fill out the form on our website.

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Common Causes of Trucking Accidents that Result in Wrongful Death

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As one of the country’s largest trucking ports, Long Beach in California is no stranger to truck-related accidents. Although city authorities have made changes to reduce the number of road accidents, these incidents still occur due to the trucking industry’s lax procedures.

Unfortunately, trucking accidents are one of the common causes of wrongful death.

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is any fatality caused by negligence or an intentional act (e.g., battery). A wrongful death claim is a civil action that can be filed against the individual or organization liable for the fatality. It can be brought to court by the deceased’s spouse, children, or other close family members.

If you think your loved one’s passing in a truck accident could have been prevented, you might be looking at a wrongful death lawsuit. Learn the triggers of a trucking accident to know who to sue for the death of your family member. And when you discover the reasons, it will be helpful to have a wrongful death lawyer guide you through filing a claim.

Top 5 Reasons Trucking Accidents Happen


Overworked drivers are prone to falling asleep behind the wheel. With demand for shorter delivery times, they find themselves under pressure to drive longer distances with few to no breaks during the journey.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol and illegal drug use are typical in most truck drivers. Driving under the influence of these substances dull their senses and impair their coordination. According to a recent study, drivers take these substances to cope with the loneliness and stress of their occupation.

Speeding and Overtaking

Drivers sometimes have unrealistic delivery deadlines, forcing them to make bad judgement calls on the road. They resort to speeding and overtaking, putting themselves and other motorists in danger.

Distracted Driving

Boredom causes truck drivers to use their phones to communicate with family and friends or find music or podcasts to entertain them. Looking at their phones takes their attention away from the road, increasing the chances of getting into a collision.

Poor Maintenance

The law states that trucks need to be in optimal condition to operate. But some truck owners delay maintenance because of the cost and downtime. They wait until the last minute to have their trucks inspected and repaired so they could increase deliveries. But this puts the vehicles at risk of malfunctioning while traveling at high speed on freeways.

Who is Liable in Trucking Accidents?

Once you’ve determined that your family member’s death was due to negligence, you need to identify who is liable. In truck-related accidents, the fault can fall on four parties:

  • Truck driver
  • Trucking company
  • Owner of the truck
  • Cargo loaders or manufacturer

Determining the responsible party requires investigation. If you want to proceed with the wrongful death claim, you should consider hiring an attorney specializing in wrongful death cases. They know where and what to investigate to tighten your case and raise your chances of getting the right compensation.

Haffner Law can help you and your family move forward and find justice. We provide legal assistance and representation for wrongful death victims’ next of kin. Call 1-844-HAFFNER (4233637) to book an appointment with one of our attorneys today.

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Wrongful Death Due to Truck Accidents: Liability and Claims

wrongful death caused by truck accident

Collisions with commercial trucks can be fatal to motorists and passengers in private vehicles. Sedans and SUVs are often no match against the heft and speed of delivery and cargo trucks, especially 16- and 18-wheelers. As such, the risk of fatalities is high in car crashes involving trucks.

When you or someone you know becomes involved in a fatal truck crash, you should know your rights. Learn the damages you can claim and the possible defendant in your lawsuit, so you can quickly move forward to building your case with your truck accident attorney.

Passenger Vehicles Have the Highest Fatalities in Large Truck Accidents

A recent report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that passenger vehicle drivers and passengers had the highest number of deaths in large truck accidents from 1975 to 2018.

Between 2000 and 2018, 66% to 75% of the total annual recorded deaths were occupants of passenger vehicles; 14% to 17% were truck driver occupants, and 9% to 16% were motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

The report also states that in 2018, passenger vehicle occupants constituted 96% of the deaths in two-vehicle crashes involving large trucks and passenger vehicles.

The data proves the immense vulnerability of passenger vehicles in truck collisions. It is one reason truck drivers and employers are held to a high standard of driving ethics and best practices. Truckers are subject to strict government regulations on blood alcohol levels, and employers must comply with the OSHA’s requirements and specifications for vehicle maintenance. If they neglect their responsibilities, they are liable for the oversight that results in a road accident.

Wrongful Death Claims: How Much Can You Claim and Who is Liable?

If you are a surviving family member of a wrongful death victim in a truck crash, you may file a claim against the truck driver or the trucking company.

California’s pure comparative negligence law states that someone involved in a car accident can claim compensation up to the extent of their fault in the incident. For instance, if the jury rules that the truck driver is entirely at fault in a wrongful death accident, you can claim 100% of the compensation awarded by the court. If the jury awards the victim $500,000 in compensation but finds the truck driver only 80% at fault, you will receive only 80% of the amount, or $400,000.

What are the damages you can file? California allows the spouse or domestic partner, children, grandchildren, and other qualified dependents to claim compensation for the following:

  • Burial and funeral costs
  • Medical costs
  • Loss of financial support (if the deceased provided for them )
  • Compensation for grief, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of parental guidance, and others

There’s also the matter of who will pay the compensation. If the truck driver is an independent contractor, your claims will be filed against his insurance. But if the driver is employed and the company was found to have contributed to the accident due to oversight, the claims will be filed against the company’s insurance.

The pure comparative negligence rule also allows you to file claims on other motorists who are also at fault in the accident.

Our Experienced Truck Accident and Wrongful Death Attorneys at Haffner Law

Filing claims for wrongful death in a truck accident takes a lot of work. You’ll benefit from a truck accident lawyer with plenty of experience in wrongful death claims.

Our attorneys at Haffner Law have decades of experience in handling both wrongful death and truck accident claims. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Talk to our lawyers in Los Angeles today. Call 1-844-HAFFNER or 213-514-5681 to schedule a consultation.

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Know Your Rights as the Surviving Family of Wrongful Death Victims

surviving family of wrongful death los angeles

Wrongful death is a devastating outcome that results from a person or entity’s negligence or misconduct. In some cases, this can be the result of intentional violence (when there is explicit intent to end another person’s life, the case is elevated to murder). In California, surviving family members of a wrongful death victim can sue the people or entities responsible and file a claim to seek compensation for damages.

California classifies wrongful death damages into two: economic and non-economic. These include the following:

  • The victim’s out-of-pocket medical and hospitalization expenses resulting from the incident
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of income of the victim (including the potential revenue the victim would have continued to earn had he or she survived)

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and Damages Claims?

California is particular about the people who may file claims for damages in a wrongful death incident. They must be directly related to the deceased victim, such as:

  • The surviving spouse or domestic partner
  • The surviving children
  • The victims’ grandchildren, if their parent or the deceased’s child is no longer living
  • The victim’s parents and siblings

California law gives exceptions to the parents and siblings of the victim because even though they are not in the direct line of descent, they could be entitled to the victim’s property through intestate succession. Financial dependents who are not related by blood to the victim may also file for a wrongful death lawsuit and claims:

  • The putative spouse (not legally married to the victim, but either or both believe, in good faith, that their marriage is valid)
  • The children of the putative spouse
  • The victim’s stepchildren

If you are any of these individuals, you have the right to press charges against the people responsible for the wrongful death of your loved one and file claims for damages.

What Damages Can You File For in a Wrongful Death?

The surviving families of wrongful death victims may also receive compensation from the defendants. As previously mentioned, the damages for wrongful death claims can either be economical or non-economical.

Below are examples of the compensation you can file a claim for:

  • Compensation for economic losses:
    • Damaged possessions, like a vehicle in a car accident
    • Loss of financial support (if the victim was the breadwinner or financially supported the surviving family members)
    • Loss of insurance benefits
    • Cost of household services
  • Compensation for emotional distress
    • Trauma
    • Grief
    • Pain and suffering
    • Loss of love, guidance, community, and moral support

To file claims for economic damages, a wrongful death attorney can guide you through the process, from filling out the Standard Form 95 to choosing the right court to file a claim. In Los Angeles, you may only file a wrongful death case in LA courts if the death occurred in the city, or if the defendant and his livelihood are also based in LA.

If you also want to claim compensation for property that was damaged during the incident that resulted in the wrongful death (e.g., the vehicle the victim was driving), you can also consult a property damage insurance lawyer.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim?

Consistent with most personal injury claims, California requires wrongful death claims to be filed within two (2) years of the victim’s death. The family and dependents will lose the right to press wrongful death charges and claims beyond this period.

Wrongful death claims can be an extra burden on family and relatives who are already distressed by the untimely death of a loved one. However, it is necessary for the surviving family’s peace of mind. It is one way of seeking justice for the death of their family member, especially if you no longer want to press punitive charges.

We can help alleviate your distress by giving you reliable legal services. Whether you need a wrongful death attorney or an expert in property damage claims in Los Angeles, Haffner Law can come to your aid.

Visit our practice or call 213-514-5681 today to schedule a consultation.

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Workplace Fatality: Wrongful Death or Workers’ Compensation Case?

wrongful death attorney in longbeach ca

Workplace deaths are rare circumstances, but their numbers continue to rise. There were about 5,250 fatal injuries at work in 2018. This is an increase of 2% from the previous year. Most of these deaths involve sales workers and truck drivers, totaling 966 in 2018.

If a loved one dies at work, it should be taken to court, especially if it’s the result of negligence. When you decide to get compensation, Haffner Law can help you through the process. In most personal injury cases, you may have two options: filing a wrongful death lawsuit or getting workers’ compensation or “death benefits.”

Joshua Haffner has worked on multiple personal injury cases, helping clients determine their best options.

Although both provide compensation after the loss of a loved one, certain differences between the two may be more appropriate to your situation.

Workers Compensation Death Benefit

People who depend on the deceased financially may get death benefits from California’s Workers’ Compensation System. This covers work-related injuries or illnesses. Apart from being dependent on the victim to qualify, you must also be related to them as their:

  • Spouse
  • Child
  • Grandchild
  • Parent and in-law
  • Sibling
  • Niece or Nephew
  • Grandparent
  • Aunt or uncle

You need to prove that you’re totally or partially dependent on the deceased. You need to show that they’ve been providing your living expenses and needs. However, you may immediately qualify if:

  • You’re their spouse who earns $30,000 or less;
  • Their child/nephew or niece/grandson or granddaughter who is under 18, or
  • You’re their adult child who’s unable to work because you’re incapacitated due to a physical or mental illness.

The surviving family may get as much as $320,000 from the state and burial cost coverage from the employer if they have three or more members dependent on the deceased. This amount is paid every week. The claim must be made within a year of your family member’s death.

In contrast to wrongful death, the death benefit from workers compensation doesn’t cover the intangible loss. Pain and suffering, along with the loss of a partner, can be covered under a personal injury lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

You may file wrongful death as a:

  • Surviving partner
  • Child
  • Stepchild
  • Parent
  • A minor dependent on the deceased

You can sue for damages, such as medical bills expenses, funeral and burial expenses, the money your loved one would have earned if they were alive, loss of companionship, and losing financial support.

However, you need to prove the following:

  1. Their death was caused by the company’s negligence or intent to harm
  2. The surviving family is suffering from monetary problems because of the deceased’s passing
  3. There is now a representative for the deceased’s estate

The first two are often a challenge to prove, especially if you’re going against a large company with a team of expert lawyers. As such, it’s important to have a capable Long Beach wrongful death lawyer on your side, too.

Although taking it to court may be lengthy and exhausting, you’ll rest easy after the case, knowing you sought justice for your deceased loved one.

Haffner Law Fights for You

Haffner Law helps you secure just compensation for the wrongful loss of a loved one. Joshua Haffner has worked on multiple personal injury cases, representing Californians who have been victimized by negligence for more than 20 years.

We will have your back.

Contact us at 1-844-HAFFNER or 213-514-5681 today for a free consultation from one of our experienced lawyers.

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