The loss of a loved one is always a painful period. But when that loss can be linked to the negligence or intent of another party, it can be particularly difficult.
A wrongful death suit allows the survivors of the deceased the ability to collect damages from the party responsible. In order to give yourself the highest chance of collecting restitution, familiarize yourself with these five essential steps for filing a successful suit.
- Determine If a Wrongful Death Suit Is Applicable
There are two instances in which a wrongful death suit may be filed. One is when an individual’s death was the response of an accident or neglect. These cases encompass things like auto accidents, medical malpractice, and unsafe working conditions.
Wrongful death suits can also be filed in cases of manslaughter and murder. Probably the most infamous instance of this was when the criminal courts failed to convict OJ Simpsons for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, only for him to be found liable for their deaths in civil court.
- Establish a Probate Estate and Contact a Lawyer
Who exactly can file the suit depends on what state that you’re in. Surviving spouses and children can file in all 50 states, but extended relatives can only file in some.
Whatever the case, you will need to establish a probate estate through which to press the suit. And if underage children are involved, the court may require that a guardian be appointed for them before the suit can proceed.
A lawyer will help you get all of these affairs in order, and you should definitely contact one for a consultation before thinking of filing a wrongful death suit.
- Prove Negligence or Intent
NOw you must do the work of proving that the plaintiff is liable. An investigation, usually conducted by an attorney, will need to establish the grounds for your suit.
Your attorney will also be responsible for identifying and notifying the other party of your intent to pursue a lawsuit. It’s also the attorney’s job to contact pertinent experts and witnesses who can help to prove the facts of the case in court.
- Negotiation, Settlements, and Filing the Suit
At this stage, one of two things will happen. In many cases, the plaintiff will try to enter into negotiations to settle the suit with you rather than incur the costs of a court case. This is a good option in many cases, as it will often ensure that you get fair recompense without the risk of going to court.
Sometimes though, a settlement can’t be agreed upon, or the plaintiff will just reject that option outright.
When this happens, it’s time to file suit. A complaint or writ of summons will be filed with the courthouse, and all of the defendants will be notified.
This phase includes multiple components, including further investigations, interviews with pertinent parties, acquisition of documents, and the like.
During this phase, it is also possible to continue negotiations. SHould those negotiants fail, the court proceedings continue until either a judge or jury reaches their verdict. Based on that verdict, an award will be assigned.
You Don’t Need to Go Through This Alone
The loss of a loved one is already difficult, and the steps to file a successful wrongful death suit are too much for most people to handle alone.
For that reason, it’s important to consult legal counsel as soon after the death as you are able. A good lawyer will shoulder the burdens that you can’t, and if need be, see you through your day in court.
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