To win a settlement in a wrongful death insurance claim or lawsuit, your attorney must establish that someone’s negligence caused your loved one’s death and that you suffered damages as a result of the death. A wrongful death investigation helps to prove these facts. Here’s a look at the different components of wrongful death investigations.
Often, there may be a criminal investigation of the incident. Via a crime scene investigation, the investigator searches for evidence that a crime occurred. In some cases, they may say the evidence points to a wrongful death rather than a crime. Keep in mind that criminal and civil charges are different, and defendants can be tried in both types of cases. Even if someone is determined to be innocent of a crime, they may still be held liable in a wrongful death case.
Before taking on your case, wrongful death attorneys may perform a brief preliminary investigation to establish the validity of the case and identify the negligent party. During this process, they take a more in-depth look into what happened, and they attempt to determine if you have a viable wrongful death case. Depending on the circumstances, the investigation may involve talking to witnesses, reviewing medical records and surveillance videos, reconstructing accidents, analyzing crime scene forensics, and evaluating other evidence related to the death.
The exact process varies based on the type of case. For instance, if the victim died due to a malfunctioning product, the investigation may focus on the product’s marketing, safety labels, and other elements related to product liability cases. In contrast, if the wrongful death happened at work, the investigation may look for company negligence or mismanagement.
Once the lawsuit or insurance claim is filed, both sides engage in a discovery period. Often, discovery is the longest part of a wrongful death case. During this part of the process, both sides attempt to find as many details as they can about the accident.
During discovery, wrongful death attorneys make requests for production, meaning they ask for documents from the insurance company, defense attorneys, and other entities as needed. They may request copies of insurance policies, police reports, medical reports, coroner’s reports, accident reports, and any other documents that can shed light on what happened and who may have been responsible.
The attorneys on both sides may also use interrogatories, or written questions that must be answered by the recipient. To gather more details, they may also request dispositions, which are recorded question and answer periods.
Additional Elements of Wrongful Death Investigations
During a wrongful death case, your attorney must establish that the other party directly caused your loved one’s fatal accident. At the same time, the other side may claim that your loved one contributed to the accident and may conduct their own investigation to establish evidence to support their claim. To ensure you have the best outcome possible for your case, work with a wrongful death lawyer who understands the importance of thorough investigation and can help protect your case against contributory negligence defenses.
Wrongful death attorneys must also establish damages that occurred as a result of the death. Many damages are easy to assess because they are tied to direct economic costs, such as the victim’s final medical bills or funeral expenses, but assigning a value to indirect or noneconomic damages can be more difficult.
For example, in a wrongful death case, your attorney may argue that you deserve compensation for pain and suffering endured by the victim as they died. They may also try to obtain compensation for loss of financial support provided by the victim, and for loss of companionship, consortium, and guidance. Putting a dollar value on these intangible losses can be challenging, and to ensure you receive the fairest settlement possible for your situation, it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer. Ideally, attorney should also have extensive connections with expert witnesses who can testify about complex medical conditions, how an accident occurred, product defects, and other causes of wrongful death.
Wrongful Death Attorneys Who Can Help You
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we strive to treat our clients like family, and we diligently investigate every case to position it for success. If you have lost a loved one due to wrongful death, we offer you our deepest sympathies, and we urge you to contact us to set up a no-cost case evaluation.