While it’s a topic no one ever wants to think about, it is important to understand how to navigate the process of a wrongful death claim. In this post, we will be here to guide you through the phases of a wrongful death claim, ensuring your are prepared and informed should you ever be faced with this unfortunate situation.
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?
While all familial deaths are devastating in their own right, the event of a wrongful death brings with it strong emotions due to the situation’s preventability. Whenever the loss of a loved one occurs due to wrongful death, it means their passing was caused by another individual’s or company’s negligence or outright attempt to harm.
Circumstances that may qualify for a wrongful death claim are often criminal activity, car accidents, medical malpractice, occupational toxic substance exposure, airplane accidents, and more.
Let’s begin navigating through the important phases of these situational claims.
In this phase, the deceased loved one’s representative is appointed and given a series of tasks to be completed with the aid of a compassionate attorney. These tasks include handling the setup of the estate in the county where the deceased resided, going over case expectations with your attorney, and allowing said attorney to begin a full investigation. During this phase, your lawyer will determine the cause of your loved one’s passing in order to gather evidence toward a potential claim. In addition, your lawyer will investigate the availability of liability insurance that would cover the incident. Finding all the liability insurance coverage possible is a very important factor in bringing a successful claim for wrongful death.
The lawsuit begins when the responsible parties, or defendants, are served the necessary legal documents, called “pleadings”. These documents are crucial, as they outline the claim. They are often referred to either a “Writ of Summons” or “Complaint”. Your lawyer will extremely valuable to you in this tough process.
Next, the parties involved will exchange “interrogatories”. This is where all parties involved exchange written questions and answers (or objections) to gather further information. Following this step, any important documentation related to the passing may be requested. Only after this, does the familiar aspect of testimonials and deposition questioning occur, which then leads to pre-trial jury selection and lawyer conferences before the actual trial begins.
Once the trial has begun, the case is formally presented before a judge and jury with the parties, and, of course, attorneys present. The decision is then made whether the responsible party is liable for the unfortunate wrongful death or not. Depending on the results of the trial, either party may request an appeal which may be allowed or dismissed by the judge.
Lawsuits are very complex, and the experience can be daunting, so it’s common in emotional and difficult circumstances, such as wrongful death lawsuits, for parties to try and quickly resolve the lawsuit. It is acceptable to settle the lawsuit at any point in the process after the initial investigation period (when all necessary evidence has been gathered).
In some cases, once both parties have a good idea as to the evidence and testimonials the other side has to offer, the case will be settled before it’s ever formally presented in court. In other cases, during the actual trial, the assigned judge may urge the parties to settle and end the process quickly.
A loved one’s wrongful passing is a devastatingly difficult and draining situation. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, we understand how to get past this emotional process and urge you to contact us today should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation. We are dedicated to providing compassionate assistance to help those who need our experience and expertise.