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How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Distributed?

May 24, 2022

The disappearance of Gabby Petito, followed by the discovery of her death, made headlines around the country and in fact, the entire world in the summer of 2021. Soon after, the body of her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, was also found and many suspected that he had something to do with Petito’s death. Now, Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Laundrie’s family.

The story is an interesting one and shows how a wrongful death lawsuit can help families seek justice when the criminal system is not an option. It also raises the question of who is eligible for a portion of the settlement in a wrongful death case.

Who Can Receive Part of a Wrongful Death Settlement?

Under Pennsylvania law, surviving spouses, children, and parents are eligible to receive part or all of a wrongful death settlement. Siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives cannot receive a portion of the settlement, even if they were financially dependent on the person who passed away.

How are Settlements in Wrongful Death Cases Distributed?

Settlements in wrongful death claims in Pennsylvania are distributed according to the intestate laws of the state. These laws govern how estates are distributed when a person passes away without a will. In a wrongful death claim, settlements are distributed according to these laws regardless of whether the deceased had a will or not. Under these laws, settlements are distributed in the following manner:

  • If the deceased had a spouse and there were no surviving children or parents, the spouse would receive the entire settlement.
  • If the deceased had surviving children but not a spouse, the wrongful death settlement would be distributed equally among the children.
  • If the deceased had a surviving spouse and children, the spouse would receive the first $30,000, as well as half of the total settlement. The rest of the settlement would be divided equally between the children.
  • If the deceased did not have a surviving spouse or children, but did have surviving parents, each parent would receive an equal portion of the settlement.

Wrongful death settlements are distributed directly to the survivors who have a right to them. They are not paid to the estate. Wrongful death settlements are also not subject to estate, income, or inheritance taxes.

Our Wrongful Death Lawyer in Allentown Can Provide Sound Legal Advice

Determining who is eligible for a portion of a wrongful death settlement is an extremely complex matter. If you have lost someone due to another person’s negligence, our Allentown wrongful death lawyer can help. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our seasoned attorney will review the facts of your case and determine which members of your family are eligible for a portion of the settlement. We will also negotiate aggressively on your behalf so you obtain the fair settlement you deserve. Call us now at 215-515-6892 to schedule a free consultation.



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