Losing someone is painful. You are angry. You are lonely. You are suffering. And you want to lash out. You want payback. You want to sue because the death of your loved one was the result of someone else’s negligence. It’s not fair. It’s simply not fair.
Though you are hurting, there are five critical things you should know before you contact a lawyer to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit, going through the anxiety of it all, and then ending up with nothing, will only bring more pain. So, review the below five critical things to know before filing a wrongful death lawsuit and then contact us at Ledger Law Firm. We are here for you. We want what’s right, too.
No. 1: Know the Statutes of Limitations for Wrongful Death Actions
First, you need to know if there is even time for you to file a wrongful death action. Time can go by quickly when you are grieving even though it feels as though time has stopped. In California, you have two years to file a claim. The clock starts the day your loved one died.
No. 2: Know if You are Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If you still have time to file, then you should take a moment to consider if you are eligible to file a claim. The first step is knowing how your loved one died. Was his or her death the result of someone else’s negligence or recklessness? To figure this out, consider:
- Did someone owe your loved one a duty of care? For instance, all drivers on the road owe each other a duty of care to obey the laws and watch out for each other.
- If a duty was owed, then was it broken. For example, did the other party fail to stop at a traffic light and, as a result, collide with your loved one’s vehicle?
- Did your loved one die as a result of the breach of duty? Using the same example of a car accident, were the injuries sustained from the car accident the thing that killed your loved one and not some intervening cause?
If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, then are you a qualifying party who can file a wrongful death claim? In California, you must be:
- The representative of the estate;
- The surviving spouse;
- Minor children, adopted or natural;
- Dependent adult children; or
- Dependent parents.
If you are one of the above, the final question to ask yourself is this: did you suffer damages? In other words, do you have bills accruing because of the lost of your loved one? Did you pay funeral expenses? Did you lose the right to enjoy your marital relationship? Did you lose the guidance and love of a parent? The loss of these types of things are compensatory damages, and if all the above are true, you are entitled to recover damages via a wrongful death action.
No. 3: Know the Documents Your Attorney Will Need
To file a wrongful death action, gather up all the documents you have to bring to your attorney. These documents include things like:
- Proof of death, which you would obtain from the coroner;
- An autopsy report, which makes a determination of death, but only if there is one;
- Income tax returns, which is important if you are requesting recompense for projected lost wages;
- Medical bills, if there are any related to the accident and death;
- Funeral and funeral-related expenses, which are necessary for reimbursement; and
- Any other relevant document you may have.
No. 4: Know that Only One Wrongful Death Action Can be Filed
If you have other family members who may be interested in a wrongful death action, you should know only one claim can be filed. Make sure no one else has already filed a claim.
No. 5: Know how Long the Whole Process May Take Before a Settlement or Award Materializes
You are likely still grieving, so it is important to know that a settlement will not happen overnight. The defendant will likely be an insurance company, and its adjusters and lawyers are not compassionate people. On the contrary, they are aggressive, trained to be so for the sake of their company’s interests — not yours.
Sometimes, a case may not settle, and you have to go to trial. This prospect only prolongs the process. There are no guarantees when you file a claim. So, you need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul (a year, maybe more), if necessary.
If you believe your loved died because of someone else’s negligence, you owe it to yourself to get the help you need. It won’t bring your loved one back, but it can ease some stress. At Ledger Law Firm, we are experienced and compassionate. Call us today for a free consultation.