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Choosing a Wrongful Death Lawyer

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The untimely death of a loved one can have devastating emotional and financial consequences. All too often, unforeseen deaths occur due to another party's negligence. While nothing can make up for the heartbreak and sense of loss felt by friends and family members, the financial repercussions often can be mitigated through a settlement, or by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits can help ensure that the victim's family receives financial compensation to help provide for their future. A wrongful death lawsuit can also serve to hold responsible those who caused the death.

Wrongful death is a complex area of law that combines the legal elements of personal injury with state-specific statutes. As a result, it is imperative that you choose a lawyer with considerable experience and expertise. It is also important that you act quickly, as wrongful death lawsuits are subject to statutes of limitations.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful death lawsuits are typically filed when a person is killed due to someone else's negligence or wrongful actions. They often involve auto accidents, toxic poisoning, defective drugs and defective products.

In many cases, wrongful death actions are the logical continuation of a personal injury lawsuit. Accordingly, wrongful death cases are usually handled by personal injury lawyers. While personal injury cases are filed by or on behalf of the injured party, wrongful death cases are brought by and/or on behalf of family members.

When the victim of an accident dies, a "survival action" may be filed by the executor of the victim's estate (usually, but not always, a family member). The will of the deceased person often is a factor, dictating how to distribute damages to designated "distributees." Depending on the case, damages may take into account the loss of:

  • Income
  • Services
  • Protection
  • Care
  • Assistance
  • Companionship
  • Comfort
  • Guidance
  • Counsel
  • Advice

Selecting a Wrongful Death Lawyer

To effectively handle a wrongful death case, your attorney should have an in-depth knowledge of this unique area of law. Experienced wrongful death lawyers know who needs to be interviewed as well as the right questions to ask to uncover the truth, win the case and obtain the maximum award for you and your family. Here are just a few of the things you should discuss with any and all wrongful death attorneys you are considering.

Negotiation and litigation experience. The best wrongful death attorneys have experience negotiating settlements as well as litigating. Many cases settle out of court after complex negotiations between attorneys. (In some cases your attorney may need to negotiate with insurance companies as well.) Still, other cases end up in court, so your lawyer should have the negotiation and litigation skills necessary to handle all scenarios.

Past outcomes. Be sure to ask the lawyer(s) you are considering about the outcomes of their past cases — both those that have ended in settlements and those that went to trial. Your attorney should have a history of success with your type of claim.

Legal Fees. The initial consultation will probably be free, but you should ask about contingency fees and any other fees as well.

Who will be handling your case. Your case may be handled by multiple attorneys with different areas of expertise. Be sure you are comfortable with your lawyers' preferred method of handling your case.

Finally, remember that the amount of time you have to file your wrongful death lawsuit is limited. Statutes of limitations range from one to three years. For more information on obtaining compensation in the form of a settlement or court award, contact a wrongful death lawyer today.