Upon reaching a settlement in a wrongful death case, money will be distributed to the beneficiaries per Pennsylvania’s intestate laws. However, sometimes the persons to whom that money is distributed feel that the judgment was unfair. If you find yourself in this position, you may wish to dispute the beneficiary settlement agreement.
What are reasons for disputing the settlement agreement?
Keep in mind that once accepting a settlement in a wrongful death case, it is generally impossible to re-file the claim seeking additional damages. So contesting the settlement generally pertains to contesting how the money is distributed.
For example, a settlement may be contested if a disagreement arises over who has the legal right to collect wrongful death compensation. In some cases the people to whom money was distributed had no legal right to that money, and in these cases other beneficiaries might contest the distribution.
There may also be disputes over the decedent’s will. Keep in mind that wrongful death settlements are not distributed per the terms of a will. But damages recovered in a survival action become part of the decedent’s estate, and will be subject to distribution per the terms of a will, if the decedent had one.
For example, some beneficiaries may argue that the deceased signed the will under fraudulent circumstances or under duress. In other words the person who signed the will was tricked into doing so based on fraud. Another possibility is that the person who signed the will did not have the mental capacity to do so when he or she signed the document.
There are several other requirements that, if not met, may make a will invalid in the eyes of the law. For example, if there are not two witnesses to the signature of the will it may be considered invalid. There are also cases in which an older will may exist. In these cases a newer will may trump that older document.
Do I need a lawyer?
Your wrongful death attorney can explain to you the rights of various beneficiaries to collect benefits recovered in a wrongful death settlement or survival action. If you believe a certain beneficiary is not entitled to collect benefits or if you believe a will is invalid for whatever reason, bring it to your attorney’s attention right away.
Wrongful death cases are complicated to begin with, but when disputing the settlement agreements in these cases they become further complicated. Often there are a number of parties involved, and many may be related. However, in cases involving a will there may be other non-family members designated as a beneficiary by the will.
Seek the services of an attorney if you are pursuing wrongful death damages or are contesting the beneficiaries of the settlement. If you’re in the Newtown, PA area, call Cordisco & Saile LLC to set up a free consultation to review the circumstances of your case and explore legal solutions that might be available. Call us at 215-642-2335 or use our online contact form.