How are Utah Wrongful Death Claims Resolved? What If People (Heirs) Can’t Agree?
The Problem: There is $150,000 in total insurance proceeds from a Utah car accident wrongful death case. But the three surviving heirs can’t agree on how to distribute the $150,000. What mechanisms are there to fix this problem? How can Utah wrongful death lawyer Jake Gunter help with his nearly 20 years’ experience?
Some Utah wrongful death claims are easily resolved because there is only one heir and therefore that sole heir receives all the wrongful death settlement proceeds.
Example. Sole Heir Car Accident Death. A terrible head-on, wrong way collision on I-15 kills 60 year old Robert. Robert’s only surviving heir is his wife. They had no children and his parents predeceased him a few years earlier. All $100,000 in insurance settlement proceeds go to his wife.
Other Utah wrongful death insurance claims have multiple heirs and no one can agree on how the wrongful death insurance settlement proceeds should be distributed.
Example. Three Heir Car Accident Death. Robert is killed on I-80 in Tooele County. Robert’s surviving heirs are his two children and wife. There is only $100,000 in wrongful death insurance proceeds to be distributed. This includes both the at-fault liability carrier and the underinsured carrier policies.
Ways to Resolve and Distribute Your Utah Wrongful Death Insurance Proceeds:
By Agreement. When the heirs agree how to distribute a Utah wrongful death settlement, they can basically agree to almost any settlement division they see fit. The one exception is where a minor child is involved and often a judge will need to approve any minor settlement. Sometimes a guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the child’s best interest and ensure the adults don’t inappropriately cut the child out of a fair share.
Wrongful Death Mediation. Prior to filing a lawsuit, the parties can agree to mediation. Mediation is where an experienced attorney helps facilitate the distribution of the wrongful death proceeds. The mediator is often a retired judge, or former insurance defense attorney, well respected by all parties involved. See this deeper article on mediation in personal injury cases.
Once the parties reach a mediated agreement, the mediator puts the agreement in writing and binds the parties to the wrongful death distribution. Generally the insurance companies demand release are signed by all parties before the wrongful death settlement proceeds will be distributed.
Wrongful Death Arbitration. Prior to filing a wrongful death lawsuit, or after a wrongful death lawsuit is filed, the parties can voluntarily agree to submit their wrongful death claims to a single or three panel arbitration. Like mediators, arbiters are either retired judges or experienced injury attorneys who have worked in the injury legal arena for decades.
Unlike wrongful death mediation, the arbiter makes a decision which the parties can appeal or accept. The terms of arbitration are generally set out by the parties before and the appeal right is specifically spelled out.
Mediation, like arbitration is a voluntary process.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit. Any heir can file a wrongful death lawsuit and ask the judge to split up the wrongful death insurance proceeds. A lawsuit can be filed at anytime within the Utah wrongful death statute of limitations and after filing suit, the parties often agree to mediation or arbitration of their claims.
WHY HIRE UTAH WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEY JAKE GUNTER in your wrongful death claim?
Having an effective advocate on your side who understands damages and wrongs is critical. Utah Personal Injury Attorney Jake Gunter has been representing injured people for nearly 20 years and solely practices personal injury and criminal defense. He doesn’t dabble in divorces and then take an occasional wrongful death claim that lands in his lap. Injury lawyer Jake Gunter regularly, every day, works with insurance companies and injured people.