Think You Have a Wrongful Death Case? If So, Here’s What You Do First
If you think your loved one died wrongfully, the grief can be so overwhelming that it’s hard to think about what to do next. You’re sad, angry, and emotional. However, you need to focus on making sure you bring justice to your loved one while taking care of your financial needs.
It’s an overwhelming situation, so what should you do first? Focus on the following steps.
Contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to evaluate your situation.
A wrongful death case can be really complex. You need an experienced wrongful death attorney to assess your situation and give you an idea if you have a case or not. Choose an attorney who will only collect a fee when they win a successful settlement or reward. You shouldn’t have to pay any good, experienced attorney upfront.
In your initial conversation, the attorney may ask you questions such as:
- How did the wrongful death happen?
- Who do you feel is at fault?
- How has the at-fault person, company, or organization responded to you?
- Was your loved one already in the process of pursuing a personal injury claim against the at-fault person, company, or organization?
- How long has it been since the wrongful death happened?
- Who is in charge of your loved one’s estate? (An estate means all of the things that your loved one owned after they died including their money, house, car, and any other assets—minus any debts.)
- Are you looking for financial compensation? Why?
- What is your relationship to the loved one?
- Where do you live? And where did your loved one live?
- Did you (or will you) receive any money or assets from the loved one based on their will?
Answers to these questions will help your attorney sort out some important details and figure out if you have a valid case. When you contact an attorney, be prepared to give answers to some of these basic questions.
And be prepared for a negative answer. An experienced attorney may say that you don’t have a valid case. For example, you may have already accepted a settlement, you may not have the legal right to pursue a wrongful death claim, or too much time may have passed since the wrongful death incident.
If the attorney feels you may have a good case, then they will perform a more detailed investigation.
At this point, your attorney will have enough confidence to dig into your case further. They may focus on things such as:
- Figuring out in detail what exactly happened to cause the wrongful death.
- Going in person to the place where the wrongful death happened in order to collect evidence and reconstruct the scene.
- Talking to witnesses and people responsible for the wrongful death.
- Looking at all medical documentation related to your loved one’s injuries and death.
- Looking to see where the law may have been broken.
- Looking at any personal injury claims your loved one was pursuing before their death.
- Requesting documents and evidence from various places.
Basically, your attorney is building a case. To do that, they will need as much information as possible. You need to be ready to help your attorney if you have information or access to information that they request.
If you have a strong case, then your attorney will figure out who is legally at fault.
Figuring out who is legally at fault for a wrongful death can be complex. For example, a workplace accident could be the fault of an employer, a machine manufacturer, or a third party contracting with the employer. Your attorney will use the evidence they have collected to identity who is at fault—meaning who you will legally settle with or sue.
Attempt to settle with the at-fault person, business, or organization.
Your attorney will always try to settle first because it’s often successful and less expensive than a lawsuit. They will estimate the “damages” (meaning the total amount of money you are seeking), reach out to the at-fault person or organization, and demand a settlement based on your case. The person or organization can then pay you the settlement, negotiate with you, or dismiss your claim. In many cases, the person or organization doesn’t want to go to court either, so they will likely negotiate and eventually settle with you.
If you cannot settle, your attorney will file a complaint and go to trial.
We’ll stop our blog post here because going to trial goes beyond the first steps that you will take after a wrongful death happens. In those earliest stages, you want to reach out to an attorney, have them investigate and collect information, and attempt to settle. The most important first step is calling that attorney. Don’t go it alone. You have too much at stake in a wrongful death case.
Need help with your wrongful death case? Contact us today for a free consultation.