There is no easy way to face the unexpected loss of a loved one. The grief that comes with this loss can be overwhelming under any circumstances, but it is often especially troubling in cases where the death was possibly preventable.
The loss of a beloved family member can impact surviving relatives in many different ways. The grief that comes with such a loss is never easy, but a death in the family can also result in financial chaos. Dealing with your loved one’s final expenses is an unexpected challenge for most people. Anyone that relied financially on your lost family member could find themselves suddenly in dire financial straits.
Thankfully, every state provides for a legal action known as a wrongful death lawsuit. This civil lawsuit gives the surviving family the ability to seek compensation from the party that negligently caused the death of their loved one. If you believe your family is entitled to compensation, a wrongful death lawyer might be able to help. Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC at (800) 593-3443 for a free consultation as soon as possible.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Understanding what a wrongful death claim is begins with learning what it is not. A wrongful death claim is not a criminal prosecution. It will not result in prison time or fines with a conviction. The district attorney takes no part in bringing these causes of action.
Instead, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit. If your claim is successful, it will result in financial compensation from the at-fault party. These claims can result from any death that is caused by the negligence of another person or entity.
Wrongful death claims can result from a wide range of negligent acts. Some of the most common examples of wrongful death claims include car accidents, sporting accidents, violent crime, motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, or slip and fall injuries just to name a few.
Often, these claims will lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. These lawsuits are filed against the at-fault party, but they might not be the only individuals interested in the case. The insurance company for the defendant will have a keen interest if a policy was in place that could cover the death.
How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?
Although states handle wrongful death claims in differing ways, wrongful death claims essentially work the same way across jurisdictions. For starters, only certain parties have the right to bring these claims. The right to file a wrongful death claim also varies across state lines, meaning claims based on similar facts could look very different depending on the jurisdiction.
Once the correct plaintiff is established, the early days of a claim typically involve a thorough investigation. Determining the cause of the wrongful death as well as the responsible parties is vital. Once the investigation is complete, the plaintiff and their legal counsel will issue a demand to the at-fault party. This demand seeks compensation in exchange for an agreement to not file a wrongful death case.
Some wrongful death cases settle at this point. Others will ultimately result in legal action. If a plaintiff files a wrongful death claim, it can take months or even years before a jury trial finally occurs.
What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?
Any negligent or illegal act that results in the death of another person could constitute a wrongful death claim. In general, these claims arise from careless, reckless, or wanton actions that have fatal consequences. Wrongful death cases stem from a wide range of acts, including car accidents or violent assaults.
A wrongful death claim is a civil action that carries with it the potential for financial recovery from the at-fault party. Depending on the law of the state in question, these wrongful death claims can generally fill two roles. First, they serve as a sort of personal injury claim for the deceased. Any negligence claim the decedent could have filed on their own behalf could result in a wrongful death claim.
The second type of wrongful death claim involves the impact the loss has on the surviving family. These relatives could be entitled to compensation for their loss of companionship and financial support.
These claims are complex, and in most cases, come at a challenging time for the potential plaintiffs. If you believe you have a viable wrongful death claim, do not attempt to handle it on your own. Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC to discuss your case. You can call (800) 593-3443 for your free consultation today.
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Although the specific definition of the word varies from one state to another, the same type of cases qualify as wrongful death lawsuits nationwide. In general, any death that occurs due to the negligence of another person or entity qualifies.
A negligent death can come in many forms. Most often, they result from an accidental loss of life. That does not mean that every accidental death will result in a viable wrongful death claim, however. These accidents must occur due to the careless, reckless, or wanton acts of another person.
While courts use the legal standard of negligence for these claims, intentional acts can also result in a wrongful death suit. This is true whether or not the underlying act was a crime.
Whether or not the death of a loved one qualifies as a wrongful death claim is not always clear. Thankfully, a wrongful death lawyer could advise you on whether or not you have grounds to seek compensation. Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC today at (800) 593-3443 today to discuss the potential compensation for your wrongful death claim.
Is Wrongful Death a Crime?
A wrongful death claim is not a crime. However, the circumstances that lead to a wrongful death claim could also spawn a criminal investigation or prosecution. There are several important differences between these two types of cases, however.
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit. It can stem from any death caused by the negligence of a person or entity. While it is possible that a crime like homicide could also lead to a wrongful death claim, not all potential wrongful death cases involve criminal acts. Because wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits, they are brought by private attorneys. If successful, they result in an award of monetary compensation against the defendant.
Criminal offenses differ from civil cases in a number of ways. An elected district attorney or prosecutor will ultimately make the decision on whether or not to bring criminal charges against the at-fault party. If the state prevails in the criminal case, the result is typically jail time or fines.
It is possible for both cases to take place at the same time. After all, the state’s decision to bring criminal charges has no bearing on your right to file a civil lawsuit. However, there are some states that require a civil defendant to put their case on hold until criminal charges are addressed first.
Can You File a Civil Suit for Wrongful Death?
All wrongful death lawsuits are civil suits, but you are not guaranteed the right to file a civil suit for wrongful death in every state. In fact, the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party depends entirely on the laws of the state where the death occurred.
Each state takes a different approach to the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Many states will only allow you to proceed with a claim if you are the surviving spouse or child of the deceased person. Other states allow additional family members like siblings and parents to pursue a wrongful death claim, but there could be some limitations on that right. For example, some states only allow distant relatives to bring a wrongful death claim if there are no immediate relatives able to do so. Others set out a pool of potential wrongful death claimants and allow all who are willing to file suit.
Certain states prevent all individuals from pursuing a wrongful death claim following the loss of a close family member. In these states, the right to bring a wrongful death claim lies exclusively with the deceased person’s estate. In these cases, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate has the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party.
Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit varies across state lines. Every jurisdiction has its own wrongful death lawsuit, and each state approaches this right differently. Some of the parties that could have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Spouses. The decedent’s spouse typically has the first right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The surviving spouse generally has the right to bring a suit in every state that allows relatives to do so directly.
- Children. The children of a deceased person often have as much right to bring a wrongful death claim as the surviving parent. However, some states only allow a child to bring a claim if the surviving parent is unable or unwilling to do so.
- Siblings and Parents. In most jurisdictions, siblings and parents of the deceased have fewer rights to bring a wrongful death claim. While some jurisdictions will allow them to do so under limited circumstances, others prevent them from ever seeking a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Estate Representative. Certain states do not let the surviving relatives of the deceased file a wrongful death claim under any circumstances. In these states, the right to file a wrongful death claim rests with the estate. Only the official representative of the estate can file the claim, but the proceeds still go to decedent’s heirs.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The answer to “who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit?” depends on the state in which the lawsuit is filed. Every state approaches the right to file these claims differently. Often, state law will allow only the spouse or children of the decedent to file suit. In other states, this right could extend to other immediate family members. Extended family could have the right to file a lawsuit immediately after the wrongful death occurs, while others must wait for a set amount of time to allow closer relatives to file first if they choose.
Other states prevent the family of a deceased person from pursuing a wrongful death claim directly. Instead, these states give the decedent’s estate the right to bring the claim. In these cases, a personal representative of the estate holds the exclusive right to file a wrongful death suit. This representative could be named in the decedent’s will or selected by the court.
No matter the state you live in, a wrongful death lawyer could represent your best chance to protect your legal rights following the death of a beloved relative. Call (800) 593-3443 today to discuss the potential compensation for your wrongful death claim with Ben Crump Law, PLLC.
Can a Family Sue for Wrongful Death?
Yes, a family can generally sue for wrongful death. Of course, every state has its own wrongful death statute. In each state, the right to bring a wrongful death claim can vary substantially. Ultimately, whether the family has the right to file the suit directly or not, they will be the party entitled to recover the proceeds of the claim.
There are many different approaches to how a family could pursue a wrongful death claim. Some states create a hierarchy of family members, only granting one relative at a time the right to file a lawsuit. Typically, this starts with a decedent’s spouse or children. If the family member at the top of the hierarchy cannot or will not move forward with a claim, the next person on the list has the right to initiate litigation.
Other states take more of a free-for-all approach. This generally involves the states designating a pool of individuals that each have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Multiple parties could ultimately file suit on a wrongful death claim, but the courts will generally combine these lawsuits into one to save time and court resources.
Another approach is a hybrid of the first two. Some states may designate a pool of relatives as potential plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim. However, only certain members of the class might have the right to file suit immediately. As time goes by, the statute could open up the option to file suit to more relatives.
Can a Family Member Sue for Wrongful Death After a Car Accident?
Family members frequently sue for wrongful death after a car accident. In fact, car accidents are one of the leading causes of wrongful death claims. This should come as no surprise given the alarming rate of motor vehicle fatalities each year. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there were more than 33,000 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2018 alone.
While car accidents result in wrongful death claims in every state, not all jurisdictions allow family members to file these claims. In some states, the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit rests not with the family but with the deceased person’s estate. In these jurisdictions, only the personal representative of the estate has the right to file suit.
In many cases, the personal representative of the estate will be identified in the victim’s will. In other cases, it will be up to the court to name the personal representative. There is nothing that prevents a family from serving as the personal representative, however.
Whether they have the right to file suit or not, family members could still be entitled to the proceeds of a wrongful death claim. When the estate pursues compensation in these cases, they do so not on their own behalf but on behalf of the decedent’s heirs.
Can Siblings Sue for Wrongful Death?
In many cases, siblings can sue for a wrongful death. However, the right of siblings to bring a lawsuit can vary dramatically from one state to another. Some states allow a deceased person’s siblings to file a wrongful death suit only in cases where there are no surviving spouses, children, or parents.
In other states, siblings are part of a large pool of potential plaintiffs. In these jurisdictions, anyone with the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit may do so. When multiple wrongful death claims are filed, the courts typically require all of the parties to consolidate their case into a single action.
Not every state will allow siblings to bring a wrongful death claim, though. In fact, certain states do not let the surviving relatives of the deceased file a lawsuit at all. In these jurisdictions, only a representative of the estate has the right to bring a claim. The lack of a right to sue does not diminish a sibling’s right to recover, however.
How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?
A wrongful death lawsuit works much like any personal injury claim. Like a personal injury claim, it is based on harm that occurred due to another person’s negligent or intentional acts. The obvious difference is that, because the wronged party is no longer alive, the right to seek compensation on their behalf falls to someone else.
Typically, there are important steps to take before the filing of these lawsuits. After all, many wrongful death claims are resolved through a negotiated settlement well before the filing of a lawsuit. This settlement process is initiated with a demand letter. A demand is a written demand for compensation in exchange for an agreement not to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Often, these letters are the catalyst needed to reach a settlement.
If a settlement is not possible, the plaintiff must then file a complaint. This initiates the case and begins the litigation process. After the plaintiff formally serves the defendant with the complaint, the defendant then has a set amount of time to respond in writing. If they fail to respond, the court could say they lose by default. After the defendant responds, the case will continue with motions and discovery until it is time for trial.
How Do You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The way to file a wrongful death lawsuit differs in every jurisdiction. Some courts require a physical copy of the lawsuit to be hand-delivered to the courthouse along with all necessary fees and costs. Other jurisdictions are paperless, making it possible to file an electronic version of the lawsuit online.
The act of filing the claim is the easy part. Before you and your attorney can pursue a wrongful death action, you must first determine if you have the right to file suit at all. Depending on your state’s laws, not every family member is entitled to pursue a wrongful death action following the untimely death of a loved one.
Some states limit the right to file suit to the victim’s spouse or children. In other states, more distant family can bring a claim if the spouse or children do not. However, there are jurisdictions where family members may not pursue a wrongful death case under any circumstances.
A wrongful death lawyer can review your situation and advise you if state law allows you to file a wrongful death claim. Even if you do not have the right to file suit, you could be entitled to the proceeds of a successful claim. Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC at (800) 593-3443 for your free initial consultation.
How Hard Is It to Prove Wrongful Death?
Proving a wrongful death case may not always be easy, but recovery on these claims is often possible with the guidance of the right legal counsel. Like with most negligence claims, there are four elements a plaintiff must establish to prevail in a wrongful death case. These elements include:
- Duty of Care. The plaintiff must first prove the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person. Examples include the duty motorists owe to drive safely, or the duty a property owner has to protect their visitors from harm.
- Breach of the Duty. It is not enough to establish that a duty existed. A plaintiff must also show that the defendant violated the duty they owed to the decedent. This could involve any careless, reckless, or wanton act that leads to the death of another person.
- Causation. The defendant is only responsible for the damages that resulted from the untimely death they caused. This principle is known as causation. If the plaintiff cannot establish a link between their losses and the breached duty of care, they are not entitled to compensation.
- Damages. Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they have suffered real, measurable damages due to the wrongful death.
What Is a Deposition in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A deposition in a wrongful death lawsuit is an out-of-court proceeding that allows the parties to record testimony under oath for future use in court proceedings. These depositions occur outside of the presence of a judge, but the testimony given could be used at trial in some cases.
A deposition in a wrongful death case involves the attorneys for each side as well as the witness that is to be deposed. Also present is the court reporter who will take down what was said verbatim and later prepare a full transcript of the proceedings.
During the deposition, both sides will have the opportunity to ask questions of the witness. These depositions are generally used during the discovery phase to allow both sides to investigate the specific testimony of a witness prior to trial.
Depositions are also useful for obtaining testimony that could be used during a wrongful death trial. These proceedings allow the attorneys to obtain testimony from witnesses who might be otherwise unavailable at the time of the trial.
Although the judge is not present for the deposition, both attorneys have the right to object to the questions asked by the other side. While the attorneys generally work these objections out themselves, they can ask the judge to make a ruling about a contentious question that has led to an impasse.
What Happens After a Wrongful Death Deposition?
Depositions are a common part of wrongful death lawsuits. They are an important aspect of the discovery process as they allow attorneys to get a preview of a witnesses’ testimony prior to trial. What happens after a wrongful death deposition depends on the state of the case and how the deposition went for both sides.
Often, a wrongful death case could have dozens of depositions for the parties, witnesses, and medical experts. Early in the discovery process, you can generally expect discovery to continue for some time following a deposition. If the discovery phase is nearing an end, a final deposition could lead to the trial or settlement.
The way a case proceeds after a deposition will also depend on how the witness fared. If an important expert or one of the parties struggled with the deposition, it could increase the chances of a negotiated settlement.
How Long Does It Take to Settle Wrongful Death Claims?
There is no standard time limit for a wrongful death claim. However, the amount of time it takes to settle a wrongful death claim can depend on a number of factors. In a best-case scenario, the parties to these claims could reach a settlement before a lawsuit is ever filed. If the case results in a lawsuit, it could be years before the claim is ultimately settled. Some wrongful death cases will not end in a settlement at all.
In a best-case scenario, a wrongful death claim could settle in a few short months. In cases where liability is not in dispute, the negotiations generally center on the amount of compensation that is fair. It is not unusual in these cases for a settlement to occur before a lawsuit becomes necessary.
Cases where liability is in dispute tend to take much longer to resolve. Any time a case results in a lawsuit, it typically stretches out the amount of time it takes to resolve it. Depending on a court’s caseload and the time it takes to complete discovery, a wrongful death case could last for years before it is ultimately resolved.
How Do You Win a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Winning a wrongful death lawsuit follows the same approach as winning a personal injury claim. Ultimately, you must prove that the party responsible for the loss of your loved one’s life acted negligently.
There are four elements to establishing negligence: a duty of care, breach of the duty, causation, and damages. As the plaintiff, you must establish all four of these elements. Failing to prove even one element of negligence is fatal to your entire claim.
Establishing a duty of care varies in difficulty depending on the situation. While this is a low bar in motor vehicle accidents, establishing a duty of care in a premises liability accident can be complex.
After establishing the duty of care exists, you must next show that the defendant breached that duty of care owed to the victim. A breach can involve any careless, reckless, wanton, or intentional act that resulted in the death of your family member.
The final two elements are causation and damages. These two elements are intertwined. You must not only prove that your lost loved one suffered financial damages, but also that there is a causal link between their damages and the defendant’s breached duty.
Are There Different Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
There are many different types of wrongful death lawsuits. In fact, any injury caused by careless, reckless, or wanton acts could lead to a claim. However, there are some types of wrongful death claims that are more common than others.
Car accidents make up one of the most common types of wrongful death claims. Negligence occurs on the highway every day, and a wrongful death claim could be viable when that negligence results in a death. While any negligent driver could face a wrongful death claim after a fatal accident, these cases are especially common when the defendant is an intoxicated driver.
Medical malpractice claims routinely lead to wrongful death lawsuits. When a doctor or other medical professional makes an error, the results can be fatal. These fatal errors could include surgical mistakes or errors in diagnosis, among other causes.
Product defects are also a common type of wrongful death lawsuit. Anything, from children’s toys to kitchen appliances, has the potential to result in a wrongful death claim. Other common types of wrongful death claims include:
- Dog attacks
- Violent assaults
- Nursing home abuse
- Slip and fall accidents
- Workplace injuries
What Is the Difference Between Malpractice and Wrongful Death?
The difference between malpractice and wrongful death is that malpractice is a form of negligence while wrongful death is a legal claim. In fact, medical malpractice is one of the most common reasons for wrongful death cases throughout the country.
Malpractice is any form of medical care that fails to meet the ordinary degree of professional skill that a doctor should normally abide by. Frequently, malpractice will involve a negligent act or omission that is responsible for causing an injury or illness to a patient.
When medical malpractice results in the death of a patient, a wrongful death claim could present the surviving relatives with their best chance of seeking a measure of justice. A wrongful death claim is a civil action that can lead to financial recovery from the at-fault party. In the case of medical malpractice, this party could include doctors, surgeons, nurses, administrators, or the hospital itself.
If successful, a wrongful death claim based on an act of medical malpractice could result in significant compensation. Most medical professionals are well insured, which increases the odds of a surviving relative recovering compensation for their loss.
What Damages Are Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The damages in a wrongful death case typically fall into two categories. First, these cases can recover compensation for claims the decedent accrued before their death. Second, a wrongful death plaintiff could also see compensation for their losses caused by the death of their loved one.
The first type of compensation is essentially what would have been available to the decedent had they survived. This typically involves compensation for pain and suffering as well as any medical expenses related to the decedent’s final illness or injury. Courts allow these claims to go forward given barring them would essentially award a personal injury defendant if their victim dies from their wounds.
The second type of compensation relates to the losses close family members might experience due to an untimely death. For those that relied financially on the decedent, these claims could provide the financial support they desperately need. This type of claim could also pursue compensation for a surviving family member’s loss of emotional support or even for the chores the deceased person did around the house.
Is There a Cap on Wrongful Death?
Some states have a cap on wrongful death compensation. In fact, the majority of states have some form of maximum recovery on wrongful death claims. That said, these caps can vary in the total dollar limits and the types of damages the cap applies to.
In some states, there is an absolute cap on the non-economic damages available in a wrongful death case. Non-economic damages are the subjective losses related to death, including pain and suffering or the loss of companionship. These damages are in contrast to economic losses like medical bills or lost wages. In states like Missouri, there is an absolute cap on non-economic damages for wrongful death claims. This cap is set at $350,000.
Other states, including Louisiana, have instituted broad caps on damages related to specific types of claims. For example, there is a cap of $500,000 in all cases related to medical malpractice. There are some important exceptions to caps like this, so it is vital that you speak with a wrongful death lawyer about your options right away. Call (800) 593-3443 today to discuss the potential compensation for your wrongful death claim with Ben Crump Law, PLLC.
What Is the Average Settlement for Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
Because there is no national clearinghouse for wrongful death settlement statistics, it is impossible to gauge the average settlement for a wrongful death lawsuit. That said, the use of anecdotal evidence for a claim’s value could be useful for determining the amount of compensation you should expect. Ultimately, your attorney is in the best position to carefully evaluate your claim and advise you on what kind of compensation you might expect.
Many factors go into determining the value of a wrongful death claim. Because no two claims are alike, it can be difficult to obtain an exact estimate for the value of your case. Understanding these factors can be helpful during the evaluation process, though. The factors that go into determining the value of a wrongful death case include:
- The age of the victim
- The future earning potential of the victim
- The medical bills related to the victim’s final illness or injury
- The insurance policy limits
Given that these claims are intended to provide compensation for the remaining lifetime of the victim’s earnings, wrongful death cases can be worth a substantial amount. These settlements can range from tens of thousands of dollars to several million, depending on the factors listed above.
How Much Can I Claim for a Death Caused by Medical Negligence?
In some states, there are limits on how much you can claim for a death caused by medical negligence. In fact, the cap on damages many states apply to medical negligence cases is much lower than on other types of compensation.
States like Louisiana adopted strict limits on non-economic compensation across the board. Under those limits, the amount of pain and suffering compensation is strictly limited compared to other states.
Not every state imposes these strict limits, however. Some states place no caps on damages of any kind. In these states, the amount of compensation you could recover for a wrongful death claim stemming from medical negligence is limited only by the jury.
Your wrongful death lawyer can discuss with you whether your state caps non-economic damages for medical malpractice claims. Additionally, your attorney can advise you on any exceptions that could result in a waiver of these damage caps. To learn more about the compensation you might recover, call Ben Crump Law, PLLC at (800) 593-3443 for your free consultation right away.
Do You Have to Pay Taxes on a Wrongful Death Settlement?
One aspect of a wrongful death claim many plaintiffs do not consider is potential tax implications. While the proceeds of some lawsuits are considered income by the IRS, you do not have to pay taxes on a wrongful death settlement.
Only income is taxable by the IRS. In other words, if the IRS does not recognize certain funds as income, the income tax laws do not apply. According to IRS Rule 1.104-1, the proceeds of a wrongful death settlement are not taxable.
The reasoning of the IRS is the same as its reasoning for not taxing most personal injury settlements. According to the IRS Rule, a wrongful death settlement stems from a claim based on personal injury or illness. Because these funds are designed to compensate you for a loss, it is unfair to tax it as income.
As with personal injury claims, there are exceptions to Rule 1.104-1 as well. Some proceeds from a wrongful death claim are taxable if they are for interest or for medical bills you have previously used as a tax deduction. Emotional distress damages are also taxable if they result from trauma that is not related to bodily injuries.
Who Pays for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
There are a number of people or entities who could pay for a wrongful death lawsuit. The most obvious potential source of compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit is the individual that was at fault for the death. While this party is typically the defendant in the case, they do not always wind up paying for the settlement or award. This is especially true in cases involving auto accidents, as most drivers have liability insurance policies they can rely on.
With that in mind, insurance companies routinely pay for wrongful death lawsuits. This is especially true in cases where the death occurred in a motor vehicle accident or on the property of another person. Other wrongful death claims, including those involving acts of violence, may not have an applicable insurance policy. That does not mean compensation is impossible. In addition to the at-fault party, other entities like the defendant’s employer could face liability depending on the circumstances.
What Types of Lawyers Handle Wrongful Death Claims?
There are many different types of attorneys in the world. While technically any attorney could handle your wrongful death claim, you are best served by legal counsel who handles this type of law.
In general, attorneys fall into two categories. Some attorneys are general practitioners that will accept virtually any case that walks in the door. The second type of attorney generally focuses on a single area of law. In some instances, attorneys will only take on a specific type of lawsuit. When attorneys narrow their focus to this degree, they have more time to fully understand the details that go into a specific area of the law. While your choice of attorney is your own, you could benefit from the guidance of legal counsel that has handled cases similar to yours in the past.
What Does a Wrongful Death Lawyer Do?
There are a variety of things a wrongful death lawyer does for their clients. The job of an attorney in a wrongful death claim typically starts with a thorough investigation. This investigation involves not only the facts of your loved one’s death, but also if you are entitled to file the lawsuit on your own. Depending on state law, you could be entitled to file a lawsuit right away. Other statutes could require a delay in filing or prevent you from ever pursuing a claim directly. Your attorney can advise you of your right to file and help ensure you recover the compensation you deserve regardless of the person that files the lawsuit.
After carefully investigating the facts surrounding your loved one’s death, your attorney can advise you on the likelihood that you will recover compensation. If your claim is strong, your attorney can help you prepare the lawsuit, negotiate with the at-fault party, and file the suit if the case does not settle in short order.
Your attorney is not only your litigator, but your advocate as well. They can speak with the at-fault party, their attorney, and the insurance company so that you do not have to.
What Should I Ask a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
You should always meet with a prospective attorney before hiring them to take on your wrongful death claim. Your initial consultation is your opportunity to ask any questions you might have about your right to recovery, the strength of your case, or the legal process in general. With that in mind, asking the following questions of your wrongful death lawyer can help you get the most out of your initial consultation.
- Have you handled wrongful death cases before? Direct experience with wrongful death cases is vital. Any attorney can claim to have the skills needed for your case to be successful. A track record of success can say more than any promise of competence, though.
- What is your fee? It is best to discuss money up front so that both parties are on the same page. Typically, a wrongful death attorney will keep a portion of your recovery as their fee.
- Will you handle the case personally? Some attorneys at larger firms will take on a case and then immediately hand it off to a junior associate. You deserve to know who is representing you.
- What is my case worth? Your attorney can carefully review the facts of your case and give an educated estimate of its value.
What Are the Most Important Things to Know About My Wrongful Death Case?
Wrongful death claims are unlike any other type of legal case. Most of the time, the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit is pursuing compensation for an injury they have suffered. In a wrongful death case, the victim is no longer able to bring a claim on their own. Given this difference, the following five factors are the most important things to know about a wrongful death case.
- Not Everyone Can File a Claim. Because a wrongful death case is brought by someone other than the victim, there must be limitations on potential plaintiffs. The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is limited, and this right varies from state to state.
- There Is a Deadline to File. The right to file a wrongful death claim is not unlimited. Every plaintiff must file their lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.
- Damages Can Be Substantial. A successful wrongful death lawsuit could result in substantial compensation. If the victim was young with a lifetime of significant earning potential in front of them, the financial award could be large.
- These Claims Usually Settle. As with personal injury cases, most wrongful death lawsuits never see a jury. Most of the time, the parties reach a negotiated settlement.
- A Lawyer Can Help. There are few types of lawsuits that are more complex than a wrongful death case. With that in mind, never move forward with a claim without the guidance of a lawyer.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit varies from one state to another. Rest assured, however, that every state has a firm deadline for filing a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations exists to avoid long delays between the death of an individual and the filing of a wrongful death claim. The longer the delay, the more difficult it is for the parties to adequately prepare for the case.
Each jurisdiction calculates the statute of limitations in the same way. The statutory period begins running the day of the wrongful death, and expires after a set amount of time. Every jurisdiction in the United States measures this time in a matter of years.
The amount of time before the statute expires is where each state differs. For example, Louisiana is known for particularly short statutes of limitation on a variety of legal claims. Plaintiffs in a wrongful death case only have one year to file suit according to Louisiana Code 3492.
Most states set their statute of limitations to expire at two years. However, there are some unusual outliers across the country. For example, New Jersey Code Section 2A:31-3 sets an unlimited statute of limitations in cases where a wrongful death is the result of homicide.
You May Be Entitled to Compensation Following the Wrongful Death of Your Loved One
You have enough on your plate following the tragic loss of a loved one. The grieving process is difficult enough on its own, but unexpected financial strain can further complicate the situation. A wrongful death lawyer can take the pressure of a legal claim off of your shoulders, allowing you to focus on dealing with your grief.
From the moment you begin working with legal counsel, your chances of recovering compensation increase dramatically. No amount of money can undo the damage that has been done to your family, but a successful wrongful death claim could ease the financial strain that comes with this loss.
The wrongful death claims process can be long and challenging. The attorneys of Ben Crump Law, PLLC are ready to assist you with this process from beginning to end. Call for your free consultation at (800) 593-3443 right away.