Best Way to Handle Wrongful Death Claims
Losing a loved one is never easy, but it's especially hard when it happens all of a sudden because of someone else's negligence. In these kinds of situations, it's normal to feel overwhelmed by different emotions such as sadness, anger, and disappointment.
What makes things even harder and more complicated is the financial burden - medical bills, burial costs, loss of income, and other similar expenses.
In these cases, pursuing a wrongful death suit with a law office specialized in this legal field, such as Spar & Bernstein Law Offices, is a must. These cases are often way too complex for someone that doesn't have extensive experience with these kinds of claims.
In this article, we'll explain what wrongful death is, how to file a wrongful death claim, and what will happen once you file it.
What is wrongful death?
Wrongful death occurs due to someone's wrongful act, neglect, or default. In plain words, wrongful death is a result of several different events, including:
- Negligence-based incidents
- Medical malpractice
- Intentional acts, including crimes.
For something to be considered a wrongful death, you and your lawyer must prove these three elements:
- a person's death caused by the wrongful conduct of a defendant
- the conduct could have resulted in a personal injury or similar lawsuit if the victim had survived
- one or more survivors or relatives of the victim have suffered damages due to their death.
Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury claims in a way that the plaintiff must prove the death was a direct result of the defendant's failure to provide the necessary duty of care.
Some of the most common examples of wrongful deaths include:
- Medical malpractice. A patient dies during surgery because the doctor failed to take the patient's medical history.
- Slip and fall. A person slips in the supermarket and dies.
- Car accident. A drunk driver hits a pedestrian crossing the road.
- Work accident. A worker gets crushed by the machinery and dies.
- Product defect. A motorcycle driver dies because of faulty breaks.
- Negligent security. A person dies in a nightclub during a shooting.
What do I need to do to file the claim?
There are two important things you need to do as soon as possible: gather evidence and watch for the statute of limitations.
The truth is often a relative term. You must be able to prove that something happened if you want the court and jury to believe you.
Make sure to save any medical and police reports, pictures of the accident scene, records, and logs such as product testing logs and video footage.
Keep everything you can think of, even when you believe that it's not necessary. The lawyer will go through all the evidence you have and assess what can later be used in court or in front of the insurance company.
Statute of limitations
As with most other lawsuits, a wrongful death lawsuit must be submitted within a certain period of time. In New York state, it must be filed up to two years from the date of the fatality.
For that reason, it's important to talk to the lawyer as soon as possible since they will need to look into all evidence, prepare the case, and come up with a strategy that will ensure you get a fair settlement.
What will happen next?
Once you and your lawyer are ready, they will file a claim against the defendant. When there's an insurance company, your lawyer will first try to negotiate a fair settlement. If that's not an option or if the insurance company is acting in bad faith, your lawyer will eventually file a lawsuit.
There is also an additional step for those that are looking to file a claim against a public authority or benefit corporation - the notice of claim must be served first.
If you end up bringing your case before the court, your lawyer will gather evidence and list all potential witnesses that are able to confirm your story. They will also prepare you for your testimony. Being able to prove that all elements of a wrongful death exist is crucial.
As you can see, handling a wrongful death claim is not easy without a lawyer. These cases are often complex because of their nature so hiring a lawyer is something we highly recommend.
Keep in mind that the defendant will have a lawyer, so doing this on your own is not a good idea as you simply wouldn't have enough experience.