Law Offices of Ben Glen PC.

How Are Damages Divided Among Multiple Heirs?


When there are multiple heirs in a wrongful death case, each relationship between each heir and the decedent must be examined. Each relationship with the decedent is different and it is important that the attorney work with the heir/claimant or claimants to determine the full extent of the loss to each heir/claimant to demonstrate and prove the full deserving compensation under the law. Other expenses, such as funeral and burial expenses are awardable, too. While damages for future economic losses may be fairly clear based on the decedent’s prior support to the individual heir/claimant, thereby allowing extrapolation for economic future losses, damages that are subjective based on the relationship between the heir/claimant require an intensive and intricate examination of the relationship between the heir/claimant and the decedent. Nevertheless, the heir/claimant, through his/her attorney has the burden of proving that claimant’s case. That means the heir/claimant has to establish how close they were to the decedent in the various things in life that composed the relationship and how much it meant to the heir/claimant. Future benefits by the decedent to the heir/claimant – not only economic, but the expectation and the bases for that expectation by the claimant/heir for what would have been the decedent spending quality time, training, tutoring, providing guidance, moral support and the like with the heir/claimant must be taken into account as to each and every claim for each and every heir.

Should Multiple Heirs Hire Separate Attorneys For Pursuing A Wrongful Death Claim?

In many wrongful death cases, only one attorney is required. However, in many other wrongful death cases, there is the need for multiple attorneys, each representing one or more heir/claimant, so that each heir/claimant gets fair and zealous representation without conflict of interest which may arise from the representation of multiple heirs/claimant’s. Having separate attorney may work to maximize and heir/claimant’s claim. For example, where there are several different families of the decedent, where the decedent has several children from multiple marriages or relationships, there will often times be completely different relationships that had existed between each heir and the decedent. Some situations include one heir/claimant being a very close child to the decedent, growing up with the decedent from that child/heir/claimant’s birth to the decedent’s wrongful death. Another child/heir/claimant from another family of the decedent may already be well into adulthood and never had a relationship with the decedent and had no expectations or desire to have a relationship with the decedent. Those are cases where you have two extremes, but they are more common than you may think. In those cases, regardless of the relationship between the heir/claimant in the decedent, money can be a very motivating factor in cases can involve multiple heirs/claimant’s disagreeing vehemently over the value of their cases, especially when there are limited funds from an insurance company or through other means. This will almost certainly require multiple attorneys being involved to avoid any conflict of interest. Moreover, these heirs/claimants may be in separate geographic regions and on that basis alone may end up retaining different attorneys.

On the other hand, with multiple heirs/claimants, in a situation where there are highly limited funds, it may behoove all to hire only one attorney, when an amicable solution can be reached. Also, wherever an amicable agreement can be made among the heirs/claimants, regardless of the amount of funds available through insurance companies or otherwise, one attorney may be able to represent all heirs/claimants. In such case, it is important that an agreement in writing is made between the heirs/claimants acknowledging each heir/claimant’s willingness to be represented by one attorney. Thereafter, there may be reason for any one of those heirs/claimants to decide to obtain a different attorney.

What is The Statute Of Limitations For Filing A Wrongful Death Claim?

Usually, the statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death action in court in California is two years from the date of death. For minors-persons under 18 years, it is two years from the date that a minor obtains the age of majority-usually age 18 plus two years; or, the two years can run from when the minor is legally emancipated.

However, there are exceptions, such as when a public entity is involved, which requires a governmental claim to be made against the responsible governmental entity or entities within six months of the date of death. Following that, other statutes apply creating varying deadlines for filing a complaint in court, to preserve the right to continue with the claim/case.

What Is The Typical Timeline For A Wrongful Death Claim To Be Resolved?

There is no timeline for a wrongful death claim to be resolved. In every case you have different circumstances, and based on those circumstances cases can be shorter or longer. For example, if there is a death of a father who has sixteen children and they had varying relationships, the attorney is going to have a lot more work to do in the case will likely require multiple attorneys. These various claimants’ attorneys will assiduously work to determine what insurance or other funds of the wrongdoer(s) can be divided up and who should get what. Sometimes these cases take years, other times they take months, but each case is unique.

Finding fault may be difficult, and blaming it on more than one person, companies or other entities may take more time at a portion fault will certainly take more time for conclusion of the case. The claimant, through the claimant’s attorney, has the burden to prove who is at fault and then attempt to apportion that fault for the wrongful death claim. This may not happen short of a full-blown trial. To get to trial may take years and any party to that trial may appeal the judgment. An appeal can take three years and then the appellate court may send the case back to be retried in whole or part, which can take more years.

Alternatively, wrongful death cases may be settled through mediation, a process which needs to settlement in the majority of cases which go to mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, where the parties agree to attempt to work out a settlement through the use of a mediator – a person usually has a great deal of legal experience through being a lawyer or a retired judge or justice, in addition to people trained specifically for being mediators. After reading all the claimants’ and defendants’ attorneys’ briefs – written descriptions of the case, including facts, liability, causation and damages, among other items, the mediator discusses the case with the parties either altogether or separately, depending on the parties preferences. The mediator then performs shuttle diplomacy going back and forth between the parties, discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each claimant’s claim and the defendants’ defenses and other assertions in response to the claimants’ claims and arguments to establish a footing for taking the case further, so as to allow offers to be made, which usually lead to counteroffers and ultimately, an agreement to settle the case. However, that process can vary widely depending on the case, from just a matter ½ day or a day, multiple days, maybe weeks, or even months, with multiple sessions.

There are other methods of alternative dispute resolution, such as arbitration, or an arbitrator, essentially acting as a judge, is agreed upon by all parties, to make a decision as to how to split the proceeds between the claimants. The decision may be binding or nonbinding, depending on the parties’ preference. If binding, the decision is usually final, except in rare cases. If nonbinding, the arbitration decision can be rejected by any party without giving a reason and the case continues towards trial, but may be settled through mutual resolution between the parties and their attorneys or mediation. Other alternative dispute resolution methods are beyond the scope of this article.

What Sets Your Firm Apart In Handling Wrongful Death Cases?

My 29 years’ experience, knowledge, dedication, perseverance, tenacity and empathy representing victims only set me apart from others. I have had numerous wrongful death cases, and am extremely empathic to wrongful death victims. I work hard against insurance companies representing wrongdoers and against the wrongdoers themselves who have committed a wrongful death. I understand the real value of these cases. Throughout this time I have worked and fought vigorously and zealously to maximize monetary compensation for my clients and have successfully done so. I establish close relationships with my clients and my clients have acknowledged that I understand what they are feeling and what their needs are in terms of maximizing their compensation, as well as being available for them to speak with me about a whole host of concerns, thoughts and ideas throughout the entire case. I like to help people and that is why I am in this business and that is why I remain in it.

For more information on Division Of Damages Among Heirs, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (877-236-4536) today.

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