In 2017, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that accidents and unintentional injuries were the third highest leading cause for death in the United States. Some of these accidents were caused by either an individual’s or organization’s negligence. Causes of these deaths ranged from medical malpractice to workplace accidents.
Did you recently lose a loved one in this similar scenario? If so, then you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Read this guide to understanding how wrongful death cases work. Learn how this process works and our justice system will help you recover your damages.
Wrongful Death Defined
A wrongful death claim blames a defendant for causing a person’s death through negligence or reckless conditions. The accuser (plaintiff) is the deceased person’s estate. Wrongful death cases can only be filed by personal representatives of the plaintiff, which are usually surviving family members.
Process for Wrongful Death Cases: Step by Step
Submitting a wrongful death claim may not be your first priority after losing a loved one. You’re naturally going to be feeling other emotions like despair or shock.
Keep these following steps in mind to build your wrongful death lawsuit to support your case further down the road:
Collect Your Evidence
Proof will be the center of your wrongful death claim. Keep copies of all medical bills or receipts for medication and equipment. Write down any of your loved one’s medical details that you can remember to preserve what events took place.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney
There are many resources to help you hire a lawyer for your wrongful death lawsuit. Legal professionals can guide your case through the justice system so that you can recover your damages fully.,
When looking for a wrongful death attorney, find a lawyer who has litigation experience. There’s a chance that you won’t be able to negotiate a settlement. When this happens, your case moves toward onto a trial and you’ll want a lawyer with many years of experience in a courtroom setting.
After you present your own facts and evidence to a potential wrongful death attorney, they will conduct their own investigation into your claim. If they think that you have a case worth merit, the may agree to represent you.
Research Your State’s Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a legal term that applies to the deadline you have after an event to file a lawsuit. If you don’t file your lawsuit before this deadline, you won’t collect any money for your damages.
Although these deadlines vary between states, lawsuits generally must be filed within two years of the date the negligent or reckless behavior caused the victim’s death.
If you are filing a lawsuit against a governmental or public agency, you file an “administrative claim with that specific office. The deadline to submit an administrative claim is within six months of the victim’s death. The government agency must respond to your claim within 45 days.
The government agency may deny your claim in writing. If they do, then you can bring suit against them in court. Wrongful death attorneys are very familiar with these deadlines and can help you craft your communications with these agencies.
Filing a Law Suit for Damages
Filing a lawsuit notifies your local court system that you intend to recover damages from the at-fault person or organization. This legal claim is built on your fact gathering information (i.e., site pictures, medical records, etc.) Your attorney will also write a legal argument on why the defendant should pay for your damages.
If you file a lawsuit, the at-fault organization or party must respond to you. This response is called an “answer.” If you don’t hear from them, the court might automatically rule in your favor. If the at-fault party disagrees with your arguments, your suit moves into the discovery process.
After your lawsuit has been filed, both the defendant and the plaintiff sides exchange legal information and about your lawsuit. Each party “discovers” the other side’s evidence so that everyone involved can choose their best next steps.
During this phase, lawyers conduct what’s called a deposition. A deposition involves taking statements from witnesses before a hearing.
Both sides in the case can interview witnesses who must tell the truth. Once both parties have heard these statements, they can decide whether to proceed to trial or negotiate a settlement.
Negotiate a Wrongful Death Settlement
After the discovery phase, many courts may require attorneys for both parties to schedule a settlement conference with a judge to help the parties negotiate a settlement. The courts will often recommend that parties try to settle their case rather than endure a lengthy and expensive court action.
If both sides agree to privately settle the matter, then the lawsuit is dropped. Lawyers on both sides will create a settlement document that spells out expectations that suits both parties. If you and the other party can’t agree on a settlement, then your lawsuit moves forward to a hearing.
Wrongful Death Hearing
A hearing will be scheduled before a judge or jury to pass a final decision on the lawsuit. During the hearing, wrongful death lawyers will question and cross-examine witnesses. This is also the time when they submit evidence and present arguments.
During this hearing, either a jury or judge will have the final decision on whether the plaintiffs should recover damages. The jury or judge will also decide how much money can be recovered as well. Both plaintiffs and defendants can appeal a final judgment and award amount that doesn’t turn in their favor.
If you think you have a legitimate wrongful death claim on your hands, then you need to act today. Collect and organize your own records to outline the history of events leading up to your loved one’s tragic death.
Schedule appointments with as many different law offices as you can to find the right professionals to represent you. Be sure to ask them for specifics on their discovery and trial experiences.
You can also check out our website for more information on wrongful death cases. Use our online lawyer directory to help you find the attorney that’s right for you.