Wrongful death cases occur when someone causes the death of another person through negligent or criminal actions. If you bring a case to court and the court rules in your favor, the law states how the court must divide any damages.
The U.S. Department of Justice explains the distribution of wrongful death damages considers who is most financially impacted by the death.
If the person had a spouse, then the spouse gets half of any damages before anyone else can get some. If the spouse is the only close relative, then he or she may get all damages.
If the deceased person has children, they will receive some of the damages. The spouse gets half and then the child gets the rest. If there is more than one child, though, the spouse only gets one-third, and the children evenly divide the remainder. If a child has also died prior to this, his or her children get the share.
If there are no children, the spouse gets half, and then the parents of the person get the rest. If there are no living parents, but the person has siblings, the siblings will split the remaining half.
If there is no spouse, children are first in line to get any damages. After that, the parents get the damages. If there are no parents, then the siblings will get it. If a person dies without any close relatives, then the next of kin under the law would get the damages.
In most cases, the estate will file the wrongful death case so that distribution can more easily occur.