If the person who died accrued medical expenses prior to their death, the wrongful death case may ask for reimbursement for these expenses. Unfortunately, this may not be money that you can put in your pocket, especially if these expenses have already been paid by a health insurance company, Medicare, Medicaid or written off by the hospital. This usually boils down to who files the wrongful death case and in what capacity.
Who Filed The Wrongful Death Claim?
The parties who are able to file a wrongful death claim varies from state to state, but it is generally one of two classes of people: immediate family members or the person controlling the estate. The person controlling the estate can usually seek reimbursement for:
- Medical expenses as a result of the injury
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Future Earnings
In addition to these expenses, family members can seek:
- The value of the services the decedent provided to the household
- Loss of future financial support
- Loss of affection, moral support, guidance, and more
Who Will Pay What?
In some cases, there may be two separate actions filed in an attempt to seek recovery. This may be done by both the family, as well as the estate.
For example: In the state of California a wrongful death claim can be filed by the decedent's statutorily defined heirs, and a separate claim can be filed by the decedent's personal representative. Outstanding debt belongs to the decedent, the estate has a duty and a legal obligation to pay the outstanding debt of the estate, but the family may not have that obligation. The debt may actually die when the person dies, but this too varies by state.
If the estate is reimbursed for medical expenses, funeral expenses, and loss wages, these funds may be attached by third party liens from Medicare, Medicaid, the hospital, or others that have an outstanding claim against the estate. If the award for reimbursement is made to the family, these monies are not attachable, and the expenses are not recoverable. This was seen in Fitch v. Select Products Co, (2005) 36 Cal. 4th.
In other cases, the court may also take these liens into consideration and rule as to when, as well as how much of any settlement has to be used to satisfy these liens.
As already stated, every state differs as does every jurisdiction within the state. Your wrongful death attorney, like those at Master Weinstein Shatz Moyer, P.C., will be able to advise you the proper strategy in deciding your particular case. Contact an attorney today for a complete review of your case.