Losing a loved one in a tragic accident is one of the most painful events an individual or family may experience. When a loved one passes away under these circumstances, one or more surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit seeking monetary compensation for various losses.
Although no amount of money can ever bring back a deceased loved one or take their place, it can bring about a sense of closure and justice for both you and your surviving family members.
There is no such thing as an average settlement when it comes to compensable monetary damages in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. The monetary damages a wrongful death claimant receives in their claim or lawsuit will depend on the circumstances surrounding their loved one's death, whether surviving family members depended on the deceased individual financially, and other case-specific circumstances.
If you are contemplating filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, have an experienced wrongful death attorney advocate for your legal interests.
Your lawyer can determine your eligibility for filing a wrongful death claim and can aggressively lead every aspect of your claim. Your lawyer will also answer all your legal questions and determine whether you should accept a particular settlement offer or consider litigating your case in the court system.
Finally, if you pursue litigation in your wrongful death case, your attorney handles everything and represents you during all court proceedings. Your lawyer will do everything possible to maximize the compensation you and your family receive, helping you become whole again.
If your loved one suffered fatal injuries resulting from someone else's wrongful act, consult with a skilled wrongful death attorney in your area as quickly as possible.
Your lawyer can explore your legal options and file a wrongful death claim with the at-fault party's insurance company. Moreover, if litigation becomes necessary in your wrongful death case, your lawyer will navigate every step of the process and work to secure the monetary compensation you and your family members need.
Successfully Proving a Wrongful Death Claim or Lawsuit
In any wrongful death claim or lawsuit that a claimant files, the claimant has the sole legal burden of proof in the case. This means that to recover monetary recovery and damages, they must prove several legal elements in their case.
First, the wrongful death claimant must establish that the at-fault individual or entity owed the deceased individual a legal duty of care. For example, in wrongful death claims involving motor vehicle crashes, bicycle accidents, and motorcycle accidents, other drivers have a duty to operate a vehicle safely and carefully under the circumstances and per all traffic laws and regulations.
Next, the wrongful death claimant must legally establish that the other party somehow breached their duty of care. For example, in a fatal motor vehicle crash, the wrongful death claimant must establish that the other driver behaved unreasonably under the circumstances, such as by speeding, operating their vehicle while distracted, or engaging in intoxicated or drugged vehicle operation.
In addition, the wrongful death claimant must establish that their loved one's death directly resulted from the other party's negligence or wrongful act or omission.
Establishing the legal elements of proof in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit can be challenging. This is especially true if the at-fault party's insurance company denies responsibility for the occurrence.
In some situations, a wrongful death attorney may retain an accident reconstructionist who can visit the scene of the occurrence, talk with witnesses, review police reports, and formulate an opinion about how the fatal accident occurred and who caused the accident.
An accident reconstructionist can then draft a report that may come into evidence. They can also serve as witnesses at a discovery deposition or civil jury trial and may testify in support of the claimant's wrongful death case.
Your wrongful death attorney can establish the legal elements of your wrongful death claim or lawsuit, often by retaining the necessary experts to successfully prove your case.
Negotiating a Favorable Wrongful Death Settlement
The monetary compensation that you may recover from a wrongful death settlement depends on the circumstances surrounding your loved one's death, the mental pain and suffering that you and your family members endure, and the extent to which you relied on your deceased family member's income for financial support.
Given that every wrongful death claim or lawsuit is different, there is no such thing as an average settlement in a wrongful death case. The final monetary award a claimant receives through a favorable settlement offer or litigation can range from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands or more, depending on the circumstances.
The first step to pursuing a wrongful death claim is gathering various documents about your loved one’s untimely death. Those documents may include copies of incident reports, police investigation reports, camera footage that shows the incident occurring in real-time, medical records, income tax returns, lost income documents from your loved one's employer, and photographs.
A skilled wrongful death attorney can assemble all these documents into a complete demand package and submit them to the at-fault party's insurance company on your behalf. Once the settlement adjuster reviews these documents and accepts fault for the occurrence, they might make a settlement offer to resolve the case.
In many situations, initial settlement offers from insurance companies are far below the actual value of a wrongful death claim. Insurance company adjusters want to settle their cases as quickly and cheaply as possible. Consequently, they are unlikely to offer significant monetary compensation in any claim or lawsuit, especially at the onset.
However, a skilled wrongful death attorney can negotiate on your behalf and convince the insurance company to increase their settlement offer. For example, your attorney can point to various expert reports or medical records to support your version of events. If the insurance adjuster refuses to increase their settlement offer significantly, your lawyer can take the insurance company to civil court by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Litigating a Wrongful Death Case in the State Court System
Under most states' wrongful death statute of limitations, a wrongful death claimant has two years to file a lawsuit seeking various types of monetary compensation, beginning on the accident victim's date of death (not the accident date).
This statute of limitations deadline is a hard-and-fast rule in almost all situations. However, some extremely limited exceptions may apply, such as when the claimant is a minor at the time of their loved one's death. In that situation, the statute of limitations does not start running until the claimant reaches adulthood.
The litigation stage of a wrongful death claim begins when your attorney files a lawsuit in the state court system on your behalf. At that point, the defense attorney who represents the at-fault individual or entity will file a formal answer to your lawsuit in court. After that occurs, the parties will normally engage in various types of discovery.
The purpose of the discovery phase is for each side of the dispute to learn more about the other side's version of the case. During discovery, the parties will typically continue exchanging relevant documents, including medical records, and answering questions called interrogatories.
In addition, the defense attorney may take the wrongful death claimant's discovery deposition. Your attorney will handle the discovery process by answering the written interrogatories and preparing you for the defense attorney's likely questions at a deposition.
Also, during the litigation process, your lawyer can represent you in all legal proceedings, including settlement conferences with the court. A wrongful death claim can settle at any time during litigation; in fact, most cases do settle at some point before trial to avoid an extremely expensive and time-consuming court case.
If the case does not settle during litigation, the parties may take their case to a civil jury trial. During trial, the lawyers will introduce evidence for the jury to consider in the case, and they may call witnesses, including various experts, to testify. The jury will then decide a case outcome, including the amount of monetary compensation to award the wrongful death claimant.
Instead of taking a wrongful death case to a civil jury trial, you can explore other potential options, including alternative dispute resolution – or ADR. During a mediation hearing, for example, the parties can meet with a neutral third-party mediator who can facilitate settlement discussions and possibly resolve the case.
At a binding arbitration proceeding, however, the parties will present evidence at a hearing outside the courtroom. The pre-selected arbitrator will then decide the amount of monetary damages to award the wrongful death claimant within certain parameters that the parties have pre-set.
A skilled wrongful death attorney can represent you during the litigation proceedings by aggressively fighting for your legal interests and introducing important evidence on your behalf.
Recoverable Wrongful Death Damages
As part of a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, a claimant may recover various monetary damages, depending on the accident circumstances.
First, a wrongful death claimant may recover monetary compensation for the loss of their deceased loved one's comfort, companionship, and care. They can also pursue monetary damages for loss of the deceased individual's income if they and their family members relied on their loved one for financial support.
Next, a wrongful death claimant can pursue monetary compensation for the mental anguish and suffering they experienced as a direct result of their loved one's death. They can also pursue compensation for a lost inheritance or savings. Finally, a wrongful death claimant may recover monetary damages for losing the deceased individual's household services.
A skilled wrongful death attorney will determine which monetary damages you will likely recover in your claim or lawsuit. Your attorney will support you throughout the claims filing and litigation processes and work to maximize the compensation you need and deserve.
You might trust an insurance company to do the right thing and provide the compensation your family deserves due to the tragic loss you experienced.
Unfortunately, insurance companies do not have the best interests of claimants in mind, including those who suffered a wrongful death. Dealing with adjusters trying to minimize your compensation can only add to your stress and overall grief.
Never allow insurance companies to underestimate the justice you deserve for your family’s devastating loss. The right lawyer will fight for your family and the memory of your loved one to ensure you receive what you need and deserve.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney in Your Area Right Away
Few things in life are worse than losing a close loved one, especially if that loved one died in a preventable accident. By retaining a skilled personal injury attorney, you and your family can grieve for your loved one without worrying about various legal complications.
Your attorney is there from beginning to end, including dealing with insurance companies and their adjusters and litigating your case in court. Your wrongful death attorney will do everything possible to maximize the compensation you and your family need to become whole again after losing your loved one.