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How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?

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If you’ve lost a loved one through a tragic accident that could have been avoided, you may be considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity that caused the accident. 

Wrongful death suits enable you to recoup financial losses your family suffered as a result of your loved one’s death and hold the negligent party responsible for the accident that caused it.

The Joel Bieber Firm’s personal injury lawyers work with families to secure a financial settlement after a car collision, accident in the workplace, death due to medical malpractice, or fatal exposure to a harmful consumer product. We walk beside you every step of the way during this emotional process, advocating for your rights and your family.

Although every case has different circumstances, the process and what is involved in a wrongful death claim is fairly consistent. Understanding the basics of how a wrongful death claim works is important for both workers and their families.

If you think your loved one suffered a wrongful death, we offer a free evaluation of your case. Call us today!


Wrongful Death Cases Start with an Investigation


Investigation for wrongful death
Investigation for wrongful death

Wrongful death cases begin with a consultation with an attorney who focuses on personal injury and wrongful death claims. They evaluate the facts of your case, and once they accept you as a client, they begin their own investigation into the matter. 

This includes independent interviewing of witnesses to the accident, reviewing any video footage or photographs taken of the scene, evaluating the police report and talking to any police or first responders on the scene of the accident, and looking over the company incident report.

Our legal team will gather all the facts about your loved one’s accident, including all contributing factors. 

For example, in a workplace accident, we may request copies of the company’s safety manual, records of equipment maintenance and safety inspections, and statements from your loved one’s coworkers about how diligent the employer was about enforcing safety policies and OSHA requirements.

We also determine the right amount to sue for, which is your compensation for your loss. Many families may be distressed about putting a dollar value on their loved one’s life, and we understand this. 

Our goal in this process is to make sure you and your family continue to have the support and lifestyle that your loved one was providing for you and that your goals and dreams, such as college for children or a comfortable retirement, aren’t lost because of a tragic accident that could have been avoided.

Determining Liability in a Wrongful Death Case


Proving liability is the crux of a personal injury or wrongful death case. Proving liability involves either demonstrating that the party that caused the accident (the defendant) meets the legal criteria for negligence or determining that the defendant’s actions or lack of oversight caused the fatal accident.

Establishing negligence is a four-prong approach that involves demonstrating that:

  • The defendant had a duty to act responsibly or a duty of care to the victim (the plaintiff)
  • The defendant breached their duty of care through a neglectful act or willful omission
  • This breach of duty led to the accident that killed your loved one
  • The death of your loved one left you, the plaintiff, with significant financial damages and loss

In order to successfully win your case, your wrongful death lawyer must prove each of the four elements of negligence. 

This is the same burden of proof that is involved in a personal injury case; often, eligibility to file a wrongful death claim is contingent on whether the deceased would have been able to file a personal injury suit had they survived the accident.

Issuing a Demand Letter


Once your wrongful death attorney has determined that your case qualifies as a wrongful death, they will then send a demand letter to the other party and their attorney. Demand letters are formal documents that the aggrieved party sends the at-fault party to request payment to right the wrong.

In nearly every wrongful death situation, you and your lawyer will be dealing with the defendant’s insurance company and their legal team, as insurance companies are typically the ones paying the settlement. 

Unfortunately, insurance companies are notorious for low-balling settlement offers if they don’t attempt to deny the claim outright. Your wrongful death lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and, as an experienced litigator and negotiator, will fight for your best interests.

If the other party does not agree to the demand letter, you and your lawyer may enter into negotiations. If the parties cannot reach a compromise, then your lawyer will file the wrongful death suit. 

It’s important to note that a wrongful death suit may be filed at any time — your attorney may determine that it’s best to file right away so that you are within your state’s statute of limitations to pursue a claim.

Considerations in a Wrongful Death Case


Case tacking to much time
Case tacking to much time

After the death of your loved one, the last thing on your mind is probably filing a lawsuit. However, you have the right to receive compensation for your losses. 

These losses include monetary expenses of the deceased’s medical bills before they passed, funeral expenses, and wages lost from time missed at work. Financial compensation for the emotional trauma, pain, and suffering you and your family are going through is also taken into consideration.

Although no amount of money can replace your loved one, the financial damages can help ease the financial burdens you’re under after their death. As you pursue the wrongful death claim, you likely have pressing questions about the financial recovery process.

There are several critical things to remember about your legal options in a wrongful death case:

  • You are entitled to the full cost of your losses
  • You can pursue the cost of your loved one’s medical expenses arising from the fatal accident
  • You are entitled to full compensation for funeral and burial expenses
  • You are entitled to recoup the full extent of lost income, both now and your loved one’s projected earnings
  • You may receive compensation for your loved one’s pain and suffering as well as your own

The above types of damages are considered economic, or actual damages, and non-economic, or “pain and suffering,” which includes emotional trauma and mental anguish. Your wrongful death lawyer may pursue a third category of damages, called punitive damages, which is a form of financial punishment assessed on the at-fault party. 

If a judge determines that the defendant’s actions were egregious, overly reckless, malicious, or otherwise indicative of significant wrongdoing, then they may award punitive damages in your case.

Understanding Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim


Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit after an accident. The laws concerning who is eligible for compensation after a wrongful death accident differ by state. However, for the most part, they are restricted to the deceased’s:

  • Legal spouse or domestic partner
  • Biological and adopted children
  • Biological and adoptive parents

In some states, these family members may retain the services of a personal injury lawyer and each file a lawsuit. In other states, only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death claim. 

If the deceased had a will, this is usually the executor of the will, acting at the request of and on behalf of the surviving family members. If your loved one died without a will, your state’s probate court will name a representative of their estate, and that individual may file a wrongful death suit on your behalf.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Wrongful Death Lawsuit


Many of our clients have plenty of urgent questions throughout the wrongful death lawsuit process. We will cover the specifics of your personal situation during your initial consultation, and your legal representative from The Joel Bieber Firm will promptly answer any other questions you have as they arise.

What Is the Difference Between a Survival Action and a Wrongful Death Suit?


Wrongful death cases allow surviving relatives of the deceased accident victim to receive compensation for the economic and emotional impact of their loved one’s death. A wrongful death is one in which someone else’s negligent actions caused the fatality.

On the other hand, a survival action lawsuit allows specific surviving relatives of the deceased to receive a financial award to which the deceased would have been entitled if they had lived.

How Does My Lawyer Prove Wrongful Death?


Proving a defendant guilty in a wrongful death lawsuit differs from how a defendant is proven guilty in a criminal matter. 

Although the defendant in your loved one’s wrongful death suit may face criminal charges for their actions, wrongful death and personal injury claims are civil matters filed in civil courts, and therefore the rules of evidence and burden of proof are a little different.

Proving that the defendant was negligent is essential to demonstrate that your loved one suffered a wrongful death. This means establishing negligence, a four-part requirement we delineated above. 

However, the burden of proof is less in civil matters than in criminal ones, and in some cases, your lawyer may prove negligence by establishing that the defendant did not act in the manner that a reasonable person would be expected to act.

Why Is My Wrongful Death Lawsuit Taking Such a Long Time to Complete?


Some wrongful death cases can take months or even years to complete, such as class-action lawsuits involving a defective consumer product, with dozens or even hundreds of plaintiffs. 

Large consumer product companies may try to exhaust the plaintiff’s ability to pursue the case further. They might drag their feet, attempting to wear out the lawyers for the plaintiffs by costing them time and money in the hopes that the plaintiffs will just get frustrated and give up.

Other times, the circumstances of the case can be murky, and the discovery process may take some time. Not every wrongful death case is black and white, so it may take your lawyer a long time to build a solid case on your behalf. We try to handle each step as quickly as possible for you.

The Other Party’s Insurance Company Offered Me a Settlement. Should I Talk to Them?


The other party’s insurance company may offer you a fast settlement in order to minimize their exposure in a wrongful death case or to minimize the amount they would potentially have to pay, especially if their legal team thinks that your case could result in punitive damages. 

The insurance company does not represent you, nor does it have your interests or that of your family at heart. Your wrongful death lawyer does and can take care of all communications with unscrupulous insurance companies.

Your Next Steps in Pursuing a Wrongful Death Case


Finding the right legal representation in a wrongful death case can help ensure you get the maximum settlement you’re entitled to. 

You can help your lawyer by providing them with as much documentation as possible, including any receipts and invoices from your loved one’s medical treatment before they died and all of your fiscal records detailing how they contributed financially to your family.

Share as little as possible about the case on social media, and minimize how active you are on social media — make your accounts private. The other party may use your posts as evidence that your family isn’t experiencing financial hardship after the accident.

Talk to a wrongful death lawyer as soon as you’re able after the accident. Your state’s statute of limitations to file a lawsuit may only be one year from the date of your loved one’s death, and if you miss that deadline, then your case will probably be dismissed, no matter how strong the facts are in your favor.

A Lawyer from The Joel Bieber Firm Can Help You with Your Wrongful Death Case


A wrongful death claim is a legal action that allows the surviving family members or beneficiaries of a deceased person to seek compensation when the death was caused by the negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions of another person or entity.

If you lost a family member in a tragic, avoidable accident, we can help. The Joel Bieber Firm is a team of experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorneys will help you to understand the case and how does a wrongful death claim work. Joel Bieber firm focused on helping families just like you achieve the financial compensation they deserve. 

Contact us today for a complimentary consultation regarding your case.

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