You should ask a wrongful death attorney several important questions as you consider whether you should hire one. When meeting with them for the first time, you should ask them:
- How much experience do they have handling wrongful death cases?
- Will they handle the case personally?
- How strong do you believe my claim is?
- How much compensation do you think I could receive?
- How does the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit work?
- How much will you charge in fees?
Experience Handling Wrongful Death Cases
Any lawyer can potentially file a wrongful death lawsuit, but that does not mean that all attorneys are equally knowledgeable about the ins and outs of these cases. Wrongful death cases can become complicated, especially if the facts are in dispute or the liable party tries to avoid accepting responsibility.
An attorney who has experience conducting wrongful death investigations, negotiating settlements, and arguing cases at trial may be more effective than someone who has only a basic understanding of the principles of wrongful death law. A lawyer who has helped numerous clients obtain compensation may be more effective than someone who has only represented families in a handful of wrongful death cases or has had mixed results.
Handling Your Case Personally
In some cases, a senior attorney will handle your wrongful death lawsuit. At other firms, a junior associate might do most of the work under a higher-ranking attorney’s supervision. When appropriate, one lawyer might consult others on the team for help with specific issues. For example, a wrongful death attorney handling a case involving an incorrect diagnosis could confer with a colleague who has experience handling medical malpractice cases. In an initial consultation, you can ask how the firm operates and who would handle the details related to your claim.
Having a Strong Case
Sometimes, it is clear what led to a wrongful death. In other cases, an attorney must conduct a lengthy investigation to sort things out. Witnesses might give conflicting accounts, or liable parties try to cover things up. A lawyer can discuss what you know about the events leading up to your loved one’s death and review any information you have available, but they might not determine right away if you have a strong case.
The Worth of Your Claim
An attorney can help you seek a financial award to compensate you and other family members for losses related to your relative’s death. Survivors may be entitled to economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages can cover medical bills for the care your loved one received before they died, bills you paid out of pocket for the funeral and burial, and the loss of income that your family member would have earned if they had not suffered an untimely death.
Noneconomic damages may cover your loved one’s physical and mental pain and suffering prior to death and the emotional pain that you and other members of your family have experienced and will continue to endure. You may also receive compensation for the loss of the love, companionship, support, encouragement, and other intangible aspects of the relationship you used to share with your loved one.
You could also pursue punitive damages, meant to punish egregious behavior, and serve as a warning to others to discourage similar behavior.
Process of Filing Wrongful Death Suits
Things can get complicated since state laws differ in some key areas. Some states only let close family members file a wrongful death lawsuit, while others extend that right to a broader range of relatives—and even some people who were not family members. In some states, relatives get separated into categories, and certain people have the right to sue before others, while others bar family members from suing at all. Instead, only a personal representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
State laws also differ on statutes of limitations, or the amount of time available to file a wrongful death lawsuit. An attorney familiar with your state’s laws can answer questions regarding these and other matters.
Attorney Fees to Expect
Families struggling to come to grips with the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one may not have the ability to pay an attorney out of pocket. Law firms that represent clients in wrongful death cases often work on a contingency basis. That means family members do not have to pay the law firm any upfront money. The firm only gets paid if it collects a financial award, and its fee is a percentage of the amount recovered. The firm may also collect compensation for expenses associated with the case, such as filing fees or copying records.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer
Ben Crump Law, PLLC, has a team of attorneys who have helped clients across the United States seek justice following the wrongful death of a loved one. In an initial consultation, you should ask our wrongful death lawyers any questions you might have regarding your case. A staff member can discuss our firm’s experience handling wrongful death lawsuits, the strength of your case, potential compensation, state laws, fees, and other issues. Call us today at (800) 593-3443 to get the process started.