How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?

When your loved one passes away due to the negligence of another party, you may be eligible to file a claim and be compensated for their untimely death. If you are unsure whether you qualify to file a wrongful death claim, below are some of the details that might help you decide.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death claim is filed on behalf of the deceased victim by a relative or loved one in order to hold the defending party accountable for financial and emotional losses associated with the death. Wrongful deaths involve situations where another party’s negligence or purposeful actions lead to a victim passing away—they are common in situations of medical malpractice, intentional killings, and car accidents, but there are many other situations where it may also be applicable. 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Wrongful Death Lawsuits

1. Determine If You Are Eligible to File

In the state of California, wrongful death lawsuits can be filed by spouses, domestic partners, or children of the deceased. There may be other parties that are eligible to file as well, such as anyone else who is financially dependent upon the victim. Cases must be filed in accordance with California’s statute of limitations, which states that the claim expires two years after the date of death.

In order to have grounds for your claim, it must be determined that your loved one’s death was due to another party’s negligence. This is clear in situations of reckless driving or assault but can apply to many cases where someone had a duty to protect your loved one and did not uphold that duty.

2. Talk With a Lawyer About Your Case

If you think you might have a case, getting the counsel of a qualified wrongful death attorney as quickly as possible is advised. Schedule a free consultation to go over the details and nuances of your claim with an attorney right away. They will be able to review the specifics of your case, provide you with advice tailored to your situation and help you move forward with the next steps of a wrongful death claim, should you chose to do so.

3. Your Attorney Will Begin Investigations

As they begin investigating the details of your wrongful death claim, your lawyer will pick apart the details of the incident in order to build a case against the negligent party. This will often involve working with police and medical professionals familiar with the situation and may include conferring with accident reconstruction specialists to further analyze the incident.

4. the Value of Your Case Is Determined

After obtaining the details of your claim, your attorney will be able to more clearly determine what your case is worth. This will include both the clear numbers of medical bills, funeral expenditures, and other expenses accrued due to the loss of your loved one, but will also account for the emotional strain and undue stress that the wrongful death has caused.

5. Your Case Is Drafted and Filed

Once your attorney has gathered sufficient evidence and information regarding the case, they will then bring forth a formal filing with the court. This complaint will outline the supporting evidence of your case, identify the defendant, and outline the monetary amount that your team will be seeking. 

6. the Pre-Trial and Negotiation Stage Begins

The litigation that happens before the trail involves coordinating with the legal team of the defendant to obtain necessary information and context. Court motions are sometimes filed, and your attorney will be dealing directly with the defendant’s legal team to establish details and ask further questions.

This is also the period where negotiations might take place. Your attorney will be able to showcase the strength of your case, and in many scenarios, this will be enough to have the other party offer up a settlement to prevent the claim from going to court. While they will sometimes make a low offer, your attorney can counter and negotiate to a number that is fair and reasonable for you.

7. the Case Goes to Trial

If the defendant’s legal team refuses to offer up a reasonable settlement amount during the negotiation stage, the case will then go before a court and a jury. While negotiations are generally more simple for all involved, having an attorney that is comfortable going to court if need be is vital just in case it is required.

What Damages Can Be Included in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When filing a claim for wrongful death, it is important to seek compensation for any and all related damages that are a result of your loved one’s passing. Here are some of the common elements that are included in a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Medical bills for treatment before your loved one passed away

  • Funeral and burial expenses

  • Emotional pain and suffering as a result of the loved one’s death

  • Loss of the loved one’s income contributions to the household

  • Services and value the loved one would have contributed

  • Loss of companionship and emotional support

Finding a Wrongful Death Attorney

If your loved one has passed away and you think you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim, schedule a free consultation with us today.

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