| Read Time: 7 minutes | Wrongful Death

Losing a loved one is always difficult, but when a family member loses their life suddenly in an accident, it can cause anger and frustration when the death was preventable. As the victim’s family, you may feel unsure of what to do after your loved one’s death in an accident.

A wrongful death attorney may take action on behalf of your family against the parties responsible.

Do You Believe Your Loved One’s Death Happened Because of Another Party’s Negligence?

Sadly, accidents can happen, and deaths may occur when life-threatening injuries to a victim occur. All accidents are not the result of negligence or misconduct of another party. However, if you believe or suspect that the death of your family member resulted from another individual or party’s preventable actions, you may file a wrongful death claim.

Wrongful deaths are not always apparent. You may need the knowledge and experience of a wrongful death attorney to investigate your loved one’s death and determine if you can take legal action.

What Is a Wrongful Death?

What Is a Wrongful Death?

The law defines when death is wrongful. Wrongful deaths happen when an individual’s negligent behaviors or misconduct harm another and, subsequently, their death. A wrongful death claim is an insurance claim on behalf of the family or estate of a victim that dies at the hands of another party.

Wrongful deaths give rise to a claim for damages for certain losses and impacts that occur because of the unforeseen and avoidable death of a loved one. Suppose an insurance claim is not possible or is not enough to cover the losses of the family. In that case, a family may have grounds to take legal action through a lawsuit in court against the insurer or the parties personally responsible for the death of their loved one.

An Attorney Can Determine Whether You Are Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim

The process of filing a wrongful death claim can take time. A lawyer can help you understand the laws in the location where your loved one lost their lives and who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim under those laws. When a victim dies because of the negligence of another party family may be able to seek justice and compensation for that loss. However, your relation to the victim and the other family members currently living also play a part in determining who may file a claim.

Typically, a close family member, such as a spouse or child, will bring a claim for wrongful death. Although if a victim has no surviving spouse or children, other family members may be able to file depending on the state’s laws. Parents, siblings, or grandparents of the victim may be able to make a wrongful death claim in some jurisdictions.

How A Lawyer Can Investigate the Cause of Your Loved One’s Death

When a death occurs because of negligence, you must figure out who is responsible. Even when insurance is available, you will still need to prove who was at fault for your loved one’s death. Furthermore, if insurance is not sufficient, you may be able to seek damages personally from the at-fault party, whether it be an individual or an organization.

An attorney that represents your family in a wrongful death claim can investigate the cause of the accident leading to their death. Sometimes, a complex chain of events ultimately leads to your loved one’s loss of life.

Common causes of wrongful death accidents may include:

  • Car accidents
  • Work-related accidents
  • Slip and falls
  • Truck accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Recreational accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective products

How Your Attorney Can Build a Wrongful Death Insurance Claim and Case

Once you decide to hire a lawyer to represent your family in a wrongful death claim, they will work on building your case. To get the best chance at settling or resolving your case to your benefit, it will take time and resources for your lawyer to look into each aspect of your loved one’s death and properly prepare a claim against the insurer.

Gathering Evidence

As part of the investigation into the accident that led up to your loved one’s death, your attorney will gather the evidence they can track down that can help you prove who is at fault and how the incident occurred.

Additionally, if you have any records or information you have kept relating to the accident, such as photographs of the scene or damage to property, police reports, medical records, or any communications from the insurer or a third party, you will want to provide this to your attorney. They can then evaluate the evidence for relevance to the case and for any new details they may be able to uncover from it.

Interviewing Witnesses

Beyond collecting physical evidence of the accident, your lawyer will want to interview witnesses. While some witnesses may have already come forward, and statements can be in an accident or police report, others may have vital information but have not yet contacted authorities.

In addition, to finding possible witnesses to the accident or your loved one’s fatal injuries, there may also be experts who can provide valuable insight into how or why the accident occurred. Experts can testify to any number of factors of a wrongful death claim, and your attorney can discuss with you what experts may be able to help in your claim and case on behalf of your loved one.

Discovering Liable Parties for the Wrongful Death of Your Loved One

The determination of fault is a critical aspect of an injury case and insurance claim. Insurers will try their hardest to lower their liability. This may entail attempting to deflect blame from their insured or placing blame on the wrongful death victim.

However, your attorney will look at a wrongful death claim with the perspective of trying to determine who or what was the precipitating factor that caused the dangers leading to your loved one’s life-threatening injuries.

A lawyer might blame one party for most, if not all, of the negligence leading to the accident. However, a lawyer may identify multiple at-fault parties who may share the blame for the loss of your loved one. That can make more than one party liable for the damages associated with the wrongful death case.

Calculating The Wrongful Death Damages According to State Law

Wrongful death damages are a challenge to calculate. Determining the value of a wrongful death claim is a process that requires extensive knowledge and research into the damages available under the law in the state where the accident happened.

A lawyer will work with your family to establish an estimate of your losses in a wrongful death claim. Ultimately, a wrongful death lawyer will seek the maximum losses possible to help you meet your needs now. Your attorney will discuss what damages you may seek in your state. Keep in mind that not every state allows you to seek the same damages.

Damages in a wrongful death insurance claim or lawsuit may include:

  • Costs for funeral or burial arrangements
  • Loss of your loved one’s income
  • Loss of a loved one’s benefits or inheritance
  • Medical expenses for any care immediately following the accident
  • Pain and suffering of your loved one after the crash but before their death
  • Pain and suffering of surviving family members
  • The loss of companionship, contribution, or support from your loved one

Your Attorney Can Deal with All Phases of the Case

A wrongful death case is not easy and involves the discussion and analysis of difficult events that led to the death of your loved one. A lawyer that understands the challenges these cases present can provide your family with invaluable assistance, comfort, and relief from managing burdensome tasks.

It will not take long after losing a loved one in an accident for the intrusive phone calls and attempts at discussions by at-fault parties or insurance representatives. By hiring a lawyer, you will have a legal professional on your side defending your interests and keeping the interested parties at bay.

All Communications Related to the Case

All communications, messages, settlement offers, and requests will go through your lawyer once you hire one. You will still be a vital part of your case. Rather your lawyer will serve as the middleman filtering out the day-to-day tasks with information or updates that need your personal attention. Your lawyer and their staff will remain in open communication with you to keep you abreast of changes, updates, or upcoming appointments or meetings you may need to be present for.

Negotiating a Possible Out-of-Court Settlement

Reaching a settlement for a wrongful death claim without the involvement of the court may be preferable when possible. Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurer to try to get a fair amount of compensation for you. Wrongful death cases can involve large sums of money, and there are times when a settlement is not possible.

Insurance coverage under the policy may be too low to cover the brunt of your losses, or an insurer may disagree with your damage calculations. Additionally, when other parties may be liable and responsible for paying a portion of the damages, an insurance company may refuse to settle in the hopes that a court will find another party at a higher percentage of fault and take over a bigger portion of the losses in the case.

The decision to accept or reject a settlement offer will always remain with the family that is filing the action. Your attorney will advise you as to advancements and negotiations and discuss your decision about any offers made.

If the Case Cannot Reach a Settlement, Your Lawyer Will Prepare for Court

When a case does not settle, your lawyer will still fight for you through a lawsuit in court if appropriate. Wrongful death lawsuits allow a court to intervene and ultimately decide who is to blame for your loved one’s death and the compensation you should receive if any. Your attorney can prepare for trial and go through each stage of the legal proceedings until a court enters a verdict in your case or it resolves before a verdict.

Ensure the Case Remains Within the Statute of Limitations

Wrongful death actions are subject to the statute of limitations in the state where your loved one died. The time you have to file suit is not indefinite. The statute will outline how much time you have to act and when the time begins to run. In most instances of wrongful death, the time begins the date of your loved one’s death and continues until the set limit by the laws in the state.

For some cases, it may be a surprisingly short window, and getting in touch with a wrongful death attorney as soon as you can following the loss of your loved one can help you make sure you are well within this window and not barred from potential compensation of damages.

Fight for Justice for Your Loved One and Your Rights

Throughout the process of a wrongful death claim and case, you can rest assured you are in good hands after you have hired a lawyer to represent your family. There are many moving parts to wrongful death matters, and a lawyer can ensure your loved one’s death and your family’s loss do not go overlooked. Contact a lawyer near you for your free consultation.

Author Photo

Jason Hutzler

Jason Hutzler is the founding partner of Phoenix personal injury law firm Hutzler Law, and represents individuals throughout Arizona. His practice is primarily dedicated to personal injury and car accident claims, leveraging his deep expertise as a former insurance adjustor to navigate the complexities of insurance negotiations.

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