You can recover punitive damages, when appropriate, in a wrongful death case. Many times, the defendant will not have any significant assets to take, and insurance never covers punitive damages. Essentially the law provides that insurance is not allowed to provide protection for someone who intentionally causes harm. Punitive damages are generally based upon intentional or reckless conduct which causes harm and insurance is not allowed to provide any coverage for those claims, at least in New Jersey.
Going back to the economist, the economist has calculated each person’s damages separately. The economist is going to be able to make a recommendation based upon the data submitted to them from the family members and their report as to what the monetary damages are with regard to each of the actual dependents. When you are not able to obtain the full value of all of the claims, then you’re compelled to use those same proportions to recommend to the Court what the actual dependents should receive.
If there are limited funds available to provide a settlement, they will normally be divided along the same proportions that the economist found in preparing their report. Whenever a claim is resolved, it is the Administrator or the Executor who makes the decision with regard to whether to accept a settlement offer or not. For example, if the Administrator accepts a settlement offer, they are not personally receiving the money, it is the actual dependents are receiving the money.
While they may be one of the actual dependents, and receive some of the money, they are responsible to see that all of the dependents receive the money in the appropriate proportions. The attorney and the Court will ensure that this occurs. In order to make that distribution, you must go back to Court and have a Distribution Hearing. It’s a hearing before a Superior Court Judge who will review the economist’s report, and who will take testimony from each of the dependents if necessary.
Generally, the Judge will attempt to see if everyone can be in agreement as to who receives what amount, and if the Court agrees, then that is what will take place. If the dependents do not agree, which happens occasionally, there will be a full hearing before the Judge. The dependents’ testimony will be taken, the economist may give testimony, and there may be other testimony along the lines of providing evidence on the issues of damages to the different dependents. Then the Court will make the decision as to who receives what portion of the monies which are recovered and issue a Distribution Order.
If you need answers to Common Questions Regarding Damages in Wrongful Death Cases, call the office of David Maran Esq. for a FREE Initial Consultation at (973) 622-5303 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.