A wrongful death attorney plays a crucial role in obtaining justice and maximum compensation for families that lose loved ones due to negligence. These cases are often highly complex, requiring an experienced litigator to represent your interests.
When someone is killed due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts of an individual or company, the next of kin (or a representative of the deceased’s estate) may be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Before a lawsuit can be filed, the person with the claim will need to consult with an attorney, who will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death and determine if the person has a viable claim.
After a thorough investigation, the attorney assesses the probability of recovering compensation for the client. If the chances are favorable, the attorney prepares the lawsuit, engages in negotiations with the responsible party (or parties), and files the lawsuit if a settlement is not reached.
In addition to being a litigator, the attorney also represents and supports the client's interests throughout the legal process. This includes speaking on the client’s behalf when communicating with the defendant(s), their legal counsel, and the insurance company. This helps alleviate the client's need to personally handle these interactions and other matters related to the claim.
What is Wrongful Death?
If someone knowingly or negligently causes another to lose their life, a civil cause of action known as a wrongful death lawsuit may be brought by the family members and dependents of the decedent or by a person appointed by a court to represent the decedent’s estate, depending on the state laws that will be applied to the case.
States also have laws concerning who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Every state allows the children and spouses of the decedents to recover damages from wrongful death lawsuits, while other states also allow parents, siblings, and other dependents.
Even if the person who caused the death is facing criminal charges for the same occurrence, and even if they are not found guilty of a criminal offense, they may be held accountable for the wrongful death in civil court.
Settlement for Wrongful Death – How Much is My Case Worth?
Some people who contact a wrongful death attorney want to know how much their case is worth or what kind of settlement they might expect. While each case is different, and attorneys cannot make guarantees concerning the value of your case, below are some of the factors that may affect your claims for damages.
Civil damages may be granted when an individual is injured or suffers loss stemming from the wrongful or negligent actions of another person or entity. The losing defendant (or defendants) pays damages to the winning plaintiff. Some damages that may be available in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Medical expenses of the deceased
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Estate administration expenses
- Loss of the decedent’s expected income
- Loss of inheritance or gifts that heirs expected to receive from the deceased
- Loss of value of household services from the deceased
- Lost companionship, care, comfort, support, and guidance from the deceased
- Loss of love and companionship from the deceased
- The decedent’s fear, pain, and suffering
- Punitive damages (only in cases of severe negligence or wrongdoing)
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
This is another common question that people ask wrongful death lawyers—who may seek compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit? It is okay for you to wonder about this, even after a tragic loss. After all, for many of us, money concerns are a serious consideration that do not go away after someone passes away and are often made worse.
The answer to this question of who may seek compensation for wrongful death varies from state to state. In California, for example, the following people may seek compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one:
- Surviving spouse or registered domestic partner and children (if any)
- If no surviving spouse or registered domestic partner, then children (if any)
- If no surviving children, then grandchildren (if any)
- If no surviving children/grandchildren, the parents
- If no surviving parents, then siblings
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations refers to the period of time during which a lawsuit must be filed or the right to seek compensation may be lost forever. Each state has its own statute of limitations related to wrongful death but range between 1 and 4 years. The statute of limitations most commonly begins to run on the date that the victim learns of the harm. However, in wrongful death cases, is the statute of limitations usually begins to run on the date when the decedent passes away.
Things That May Affect the Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
If you are suing a city, county, or state, there are different specific rules that may alter the statute of limitations in a given state. In some instances, it is necessary to give the governmental entity notice of your claim before filing a lawsuit, the deadline for which can sometimes be as short as 30 days or as long as two years if you are suing the Federal Government
There are other extenuating circumstances that may affect the statute of limitations in your wrongful death lawsuit. The Zantac cancer litigation is a good example. For many claimants in the Zantac litigation, their statute of limitations clock started on the date that a reasonable person could have known about the link between Zantac and cancer instead of the date of the decedent’s death. This rule, called “delayed discovery,” is designed to give plaintiffs the chance to file for alleged wrongdoing that was discovered later in time due to no fault of their own.
The delayed discovery rule generally applies when either of the following occur:
- The plaintiff did not know of facts that would lead a reasonable person to suspect that he or she suffered harm that was caused by someone’s wrongful conduct.
- Reasonable due diligence and good faith investigating would not have uncovered that a harmful product or situation caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s harm.
In some wrongful death cases, the date the decedent was injured may not be the same day they died; there may be a significant period of time between the date of the injury and the subsequent death. Accordingly, there are three separate times at which the clock could begin ticking, including the following:
- The soonest point, which is the date on which the harm occurred.
- A later point, which is when it should have been reasonably foreseeable that the harm could be discovered. Therefore, if the plaintiff was still unaware of the harm at this point, the judge will likely determine that they should have.
- The latest point, which is when the harm was effectively discovered.
It is easy to get lost in the complexities of wrongful death cases, which is why it is critical to reach out to a skilled wrongful death attorney for legal advice as soon as you are able.
How to Find the Best Wrongful Death Lawyer for Your Case
Utilize Your Network
Start with your own network of family, friends, and colleagues. You may receive the best suggestions from those who are closest to you.
Utilize the Internet
Use search engines to find attorneys that can help with your case. Google reviews can be a good resource to see more about the experiences previous clients have had with a firm or an attorney. Also be sure to check out client testimonials and case results to gain a better understanding of the firms you are interested in. Remember, if a firm does not have proven results in cases similar to yours, you may want to keep looking.
Inquire for Answers
It is important to speak with the wrongful death lawyers and ask questions so you better understand the process, their personal style, and learn if they are the right fit for your case.
Questions to Ask Wrongful Death Lawyers
Before hiring a wrongful death attorney, it is critical that you ask the following questions:
- How long have you been practicing law?
- While an attorney’s experience may not be the ultimate deciding factor in choosing who to help with your case, it can give you some insight into the lawyer’s experience in practicing law, recognizing issues, and formulating a plan of action.
- Do you have experience handling wrongful death cases similar to mine?
- An attorney who has experience with wrongful death cases that are similar to yours gives your case a better chance of success when compared to an attorney with no experience.
- What can I expect from our meetings?
- It can be helpful to have an idea of what working with the attorney will look and feel like. Will you have regularly scheduled meetings? When do they typically have availability for clients? How often will meetings occur? This is all important information to help you decide if they are a good fit for your case.
- How much does it cost to hire a wrongful death lawyer?
- Your attorney should be upfront with you about the fees they charge. If a law firm is not transparent with you about their fees and costs, it may be a red flag that you might not want to work with them.
Do I Need a Wrongful Death Lawyer Near Me?
When disaster strikes and you need a lawyer for a wrongful death case, it is natural to start looking for a local law firm near where you live. While proximity to your legal representation may provide some peace of mind, your priority should be to work with a law firm that has earned significant results in similar cases.
At Wisner Baum, our mission is not just to earn maximum compensation on your behalf; it is also to hold the responsible party accountable for the harm they have caused you and your family. We have a proven track record of success in wrongful death cases across a wide range of practice areas, including (among others):
- Aviation Accidents
- Bus Accidents
- Defective Consumer Products
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Pharmaceutical Drugs
- Train Accidents
- Truck Accidents
While the team here at Wisner Baum is based in California, we accept cases across the country. Wisner Baum has several national offices and the backing of a nationwide network with resources and experts needed to strengthen your claims.
Our Office Locations
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco Bay Area
- Bakersfield (Satellite)
- Ontario (Satellite)
- Sacramento (Satellite)
- San Diego (Satellite)
- Washington DC (Satellite)
Wisner Baum’s Notable Wrongful Death Settlements and Verdicts
A few of the successes we are most proud of here at Wisner Baum include:
- $265 million settlement for several victims of a fatal train crash (Wisner Baum accident attorney and senior shareholder Timothy A. Loranger served on the Plaintiffs’ Management Committee)
- $20 million verdict for a duck boat and bus crash
- $17.5 million settlement for the death of a passenger in a major U.S. plane crash
- $14 million settlement for the death of a passenger in an airline crash
- $10 million settlement for the death of a passenger in an international plane crash
An Experienced Wrongful Death Law Firm with Proven Results
If your family has suffered the loss of a family member in an accident caused by another’s negligence, you may be able to pursue justice and compensation for your losses. Do not hesitate to reach out to our skilled attorney team right away to learn more about what we can do to help with your case.