In a wrongful death case, if a person dies due to the fault or neglect of another individual or entity, that family member or representative may have grounds for a lawsuit. In most cases, this is a personal injury action filed in civil court by a surviving spouse, or parents who were financially dependent on the deceased. The defendant in these types of lawsuits is usually at fault due to carelessness – such as car accidents or medical malpractice – which results in an untimely death. Here’s the process of a wrongful death lawsuit and how to increase your chances of winning one.
Your Chances of Winning Increase With A Lawyer
It is extremely difficult to prove your case without the help of a lawyer. A wrongful death lawyer can assemble and present evidence, which is far more effective than an individual trying to make sense of what happened by themselves.
When choosing an attorney, you should do your research. Consider whether or not they have experience with the type of case you are bringing, and what their success rate is with fellow clients. Just because someone is an excellent lawyer does not mean that they will be the best fit for you. Then, think about your comfort level with the individual. Would you be willing to speak openly and freely with this person?
Also, you need to know their fee structure. The main fee structures are either on a contingency or retainer basis. A contingency fee means you do not pay unless there is a recovery, while retainers are paid upfront. There is also the hourly rate, which you pay whether or not your case is successful. You want to find a balance between the two that will work for you.
Understanding The Elements of A Wrongful Death Case
When bringing forth a wrongful death claim, there are many elements that have to be proven in order to receive damages.
The first element is proof of negligence; this does not mean proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but only by the preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. Second, an individual has to prove that they own the claim and were financially dependent upon the decedent. Thirdly, they must show how their lives were impacted as a result of their loss – such as struggling financially without their loved one or suffering mentally. Fourth, the plaintiff must show that had the decedent lived, they would not have died under these circumstances. Finally, they will need to establish the financial value of the claim.
Know What You Can Recover
It is important for anyone considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit to know what compensation is available and how it can be shown through evidence.
There are two types of damages in wrongful death cases: non-economic and economic. Economic damages refer to tangible costs such as medical bills and funeral expenses; while non-economic damages refer to intangible costs like pain and suffering before death, mental anguish associated with losing their loved one, etc. There are also punitive damages, which can be awarded in some cases, such as if the defendant showed intentional malice or recklessness.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a set period of time after an event that prevents anyone from bringing forth a lawsuit. It varies by state and begins on different dates for different events. For example, there are many states which have no statute of limitations on wrongful death claims – meaning they can bring forth their claim at any point in time – but this isn’t usually the case.
In general, two years is the minimum amount of time that must pass before a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. However, it depends on the type of claim you wish to file – such as if there was a car accident or medical malpractice, among many other possibilities.
Gathering Evidence Is Essential To Winning
You cannot win your case without evidence proving that the defendant was in the wrong when it comes to your loved one’s death. Gather any related documentation including doctor’s records, police reports, eyewitness statements, and medical reports. Also, if someone has already filed a wrongful death suit against this individual before for something similar, be sure to include it in your records as well since this adds credibility to your claim.
While it can be challenging to file a wrongful death suit – in many cases, you will need things like an attorney’s expertise and evidence to win. So, if you approach the situation with perseverance and dedication, there is no reason why you should not be able to receive damages for your loved one.