A wrongful death lawsuit works by an attorney requesting monetary damages and attempting to negotiate a settlement. If negotiations prove unsuccessful, then the case may go to trial if the parties are unable to agree.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were almost 170,000 unintentional deaths in 2017—some, no doubt, resulting in wrongful death cases.
How an Attorney Can Help You
The sudden and untimely passing of a loved one can be devastating. A wrongful death lawyer may be able to help you seek justice. A lawyer can speak with you and other members of your family about what happened, conduct an investigation, and gather evidence to build a case.
The attorney may review your family member’s medical records and a police report (if applicable), interview police officers and healthcare providers, and consult independent experts to figure out who was responsible for your relative’s death.
The lawyer can review the specific economic losses associated with your family member’s death, such as medical bills and funeral expenses, and consider the long-term financial and emotional effects of your family member’s untimely passing. The attorney can consider the loss of your relative’s future income and the loss of benefits that your loved one would have provided.
The attorney can also consider the emotional suffering that you and other relatives will continue to endure without the love, companionship, and support of your family member. The lawyer will use all that information to figure out how much money to seek in a lawsuit.
The attorney will submit a formal complaint or petition describing the facts and the legal grounds for the wrongful death case to the court. Your attorney will also file a summons to inform the defendant that they are being sued. The summons will state where the lawsuit will be heard.
Your attorney will then coordinate with the defendant’s legal team to share information. The two sides may be able to negotiate a settlement to avoid the time and costs associated with going to court. If that is not possible, the case will proceed to trial. Both sides will have an opportunity to present evidence, and a jury will decide whether the defendant was liable for your family member’s death. If so, the jury can decide how much compensation to award you.
Familiarize Yourself with Your State’s Laws
Before you can file a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to understand the relevant statutes in your state. Laws vary from one state to another on some central issues.
People Who May File a Lawsuit
In some cases, only a victim’s spouse and children may sue for a wrongful death. Some states allow other relatives and non-married romantic partners to seek compensation for the death of a loved one. In some cases, another person who is not a family member, but who depended on the deceased person for financial support or who would have been entitled to an inheritance, may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Under some state laws, certain family members are given an opportunity to file a lawsuit before others. If, for example, a spouse does not file a wrongful death lawsuit within a specific period of time set by state statute, the victim’s children may then be permitted to sue.
In other states, family members are not allowed to sue for a wrongful death. In those locations, an executor or a personal representative is charged with managing affairs related to the deceased person’s estate. That individual or company may file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation on behalf of the estate and the deceased individual’s family members. Money that is recovered via a lawsuit can then be distributed to eligible relatives.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a period of time that a person has to file a lawsuit to seek financial compensation for losses. Statutes of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits vary from state to state. In some circumstances, such as a death resulting from medical malpractice, a different statute of limitations may apply. If you do not file a lawsuit before the relevant statute of limitations has expired, you may miss out on the opportunity to receive the compensation that you deserve.
Seek Help from an Attorney
Ben Crump Law, PLLC, has attorneys who have represented the families of victims across the United States and helped them seek justice by filing wrongful death lawsuits.
An attorney can investigate to figure out who was liable for your loved one’s death, determine how much compensation you are entitled to, file a lawsuit, attempt to negotiate a settlement with the defendant’s legal team, and take the case to trial if necessary.
A member of our staff can tell you how a wrongful death lawsuit works, discuss your legal rights, and explain what our firm may be able to do to help you. Get in touch with a wrongful death lawyer so we can begin working on your case as soon as possible.