When a loved one dies, it always takes an enormous toll on the people left behind. When your loved one is killed through the negligence or wrongdoing of someone else, there is even more heartache and stress. In addition to dealing with the emotional aftermath of the loss, you may also be facing financial hardship based on the loss of income from your lost loved one. We may be able to help.
While nothing can bring back your loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit may be able to help you get the financial justice you deserve. You’re probably wondering, what happens in a wrongful death lawsuit? What does the process look like? To prepare you, here’s a look at the essentials.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death is when a person dies due to the negligence or malicious but often unintentional actions of another person. A wrongful death case is a civil action, not a criminal one, but criminal charges may be tried separately in these cases.
If criminal charges are not brought against the wrongful party, they can be still charged in a civil court. Similarly, even if the defendant is found innocent in a criminal case, they can still be charged in a civil case. The standards of proof are different in each of these types of cases, which is why someone may escape charges in a criminal case but still face liability in a civil case. The charges are also different, which is why the double jeopardy law doesn’t come into play.
What Does the Wrongful Death Process Look Like?
There are many phases of a wrongful death suit, and each case is slightly different depending on the details. The process can take months or even years, but regardless of the time involved, you can usually expect to see the following elements:
- Free Case Evaluation – Most wrongful death attorneys start with a free case evaluation. During that meeting, you chat with the attorney about your case. They decide if you should move forward with a lawsuit, and you decide if you want to work with that attorney.
- Filing a Complaint – To get the case started, the wrongful death attorney will formally file a complaint or a writ of summons, letting the courts and the other party know you are commencing a lawsuit. Then, the other party has to respond to the complaint.
- Discovery – This is the beginning of the case where the lawyers from each side exchange information about the details of the case, including paperwork, depositions, and any evidence that has been gathered.
- Legal Motions – Both sides make legal arguments based on the information gathered in the discovery process.
- Settlement Conference – A judge can work with the attorneys on both sides to mediate a settlement offer that works for all parties, saving time and money.
- Wrongful Death Trial – If no settlement is reached, the next step is to take the wrongful death case to trial. At this time, the attorneys present evidence, question witnesses, and argue the case. Then, a jury or judge decides the outcome of the case and the amount of damages owed.
- Appeals – If either side doesn’t agree with the outcome, they have a certain amount of time to file an appeal.
- Collection Process – After the verdict, you will be able to begin collecting damages if the case went in your favor.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
Usually, a spouse, parent, child, or close relative can file a wrongful death suit. However, in Massachusetts, you need to be the administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate to file a suit. If you aren’t sure whether or not you have the right to file a wrongful death suit, contact an attorney, and they can help you with the specifics.
What Kinds of Damages Can Be Collected?
It is impossible to put a price tag on the life of a loved one. There are many things that can never be reduced to a number. However, the law does allow you to try and recover the following through a wrongful death suit:
- Loss of future wages
- Final medical costs
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of companionship
- Attorney Fees
What Questions Should You Ask When Looking for An Attorney?
When trying to find an attorney to handle your wrongful death case, you might want to ask some of the following questions:
- Do you have time to devote to my case? – Make sure the attorney you choose does not have such a big caseload that they don’t have time to work on your case.
- Have you handled wrongful death cases before? – Ideally, the attorney you choose should have a proven track record in dealing with these kinds of cases. Also, make sure that the firm you choose has the financial resources to devote to putting your case together.
- How much is my case worth? – Your attorney might not have the answer to that question right away, but they should be able to tell you the steps they will take and the research they will do to make sure you are fairly compensated
Dealing with the loss of a loved one under these circumstances is more than anyone should ever have to bear, but you should not have to suffer financially as well. Hiring an attorney to handle your wrongful death suit can help to bring you some peace and comfort in these trying times.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we always have time to devote to our clients and we are very experienced in the realm of wrongful death cases. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at Mazow | McCullough, PC today.