Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Taxable?

Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Taxable?
August 9, 2023
Medical Malpractice

Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Taxable?

Is a wrongful death settlement taxable? As a general rule, the IRS does not consider compensation received from personal injury cases, which includes wrongful death settlements, as taxable income. This stipulation is outlined in the Internal Revenue Code, specifically Section 104(a)(2).

However, it's crucial to understand that not all components of a wrongful death settlement are exempt from taxes. The specific tax treatment can depend on the nature of the compensation.

Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Taxable?

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages awarded in a wrongful death settlement — meant to compensate the estate or beneficiaries for the victim's pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages — are generally not taxable. These damages help to restore the financial position of the victim's family, compensating them for their tangible and intangible losses.

Punitive Damages

In contrast, punitive damages — which are awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct — are generally taxable. The IRS views these as income, as they are not directly tied to the victim's suffering or financial loss but are more of an extra penalty imposed on the responsible party.


Another aspect to consider is that any interest accrued on the settlement amount from the time of the verdict to the time the payment is made is also typically subject to tax.

Legal Fees

Also, while attorney's fees and legal costs can often be high in wrongful death cases, the tax treatment of these expenses can be complex. It's important to discuss this aspect with your attorney and a tax professional to understand if any part of these costs can be deducted from your taxable income.


In conclusion, while parts of a wrongful death settlement can indeed be taxed, other portions are typically exempt. Each case comes with its unique circumstances, and the tax implications can vary accordingly.

Contact Hinkle Law Firm

At Hinkle Law Firm, we recommend consulting with a professional tax advisor to fully understand the potential tax liability from a wrongful death settlement. For help with a wonrgful death claim, contact our medical malpractice lawyers today.

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