A wrongful death lawsuit is one of the most difficult legal actions to file. By their very nature, these actions tend to come at a time when you may be feeling your worst. After you have experienced the wrongful death of a loved one, no one can blame you if you want nothing more than to grieve and focus on how to live the next day. However, you have legal rights that may be integral to your and your family's future. If you are wondering how to file a wrongful death lawsuit, this short guide explains the steps.
How To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in 5 Steps
Wrongful death statutes vary from state to state. Understanding the statute under which wrongful death claims are brought in your state is preliminary to filing a wrongful death claim. Statutes will inform you of rules to which you must adhere when filing your lawsuit.
For example, some states limit who can file a wrongful death claim to certain family members. Other states require the lawsuit be filed by the executor, or personal representative, of the decedent's estate.
Beyond familiarizing yourself with the applicable statutes in your state, you will need to:
- Know the statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims in your state
- Track medical bills, burial costs, funeral expenses, and financial losses
- Gather relevant information about the negligent party and the circumstance of death
- Research local wrongful death attorneys
- Meet with prospective attorneys and hire a lawyer who fits your case
1. Know the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims in Your State
If you are wondering how to sue for wrongful death, the first step is to understand the time you have to file a claim in your state,
A statute of limitations is a law specifying a deadline by which you must file your lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, the court may bar your claim. The statute of limitations exists for several reasons, including:
- To let parties know how long they have to file their claims
- To prevent malicious lawsuits used to harass other parties
- To prevent unfair legal action from taking place long after an event has passed and much evidence has likely been lost
States set different statutes of limitations for different types of claims you may bring to court, and wrongful death claims are no exception.
Many states have a two-year statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death suit. In other states, shorter or longer statutes of limitations may apply. Statutes of limitations may also vary by the cause of death. An example is medical malpractice claims, where wrongful death actions due to medical malpractice may be afforded a longer or shorter time to file than other wrongful death claims. Every state has different wrongful death laws, and understanding your state's laws can help you file a successful wrongful death lawsuit.
2. Track Medical Bills, Burial Costs, Funeral Expenses, and Financial Losses
The second step in understanding how to file a wrongful death claim is to track the expenses associated with the wrongful death. The expenses may be numerous, particularly if the decedent received medical care for some time after an injury. Medical expenses can be burdensome in a wrongful death case, but they are not the only losses you have incurred. You should also consider funeral and burial costs and other financial losses.
Not all financial losses are economic losses. That is, not all your losses come with a receipt. These losses are more difficult to quantify but undoubtedly worth including. Non-economic losses may include losses such as:
- Mental anguish
- Loss of services
- Loss of consortium (spousal relationship)
- Pain and suffering
Although non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify, the courts have methods for compensating your loss as monetary damages.
For the decedent's primary beneficiaries to receive a fair settlement, it is critical to include all damages and losses suffered.
3. Gather Relevant Information About the Negligent Party and Circumstance of Death
Next, you will need to gather information about the negligent party and the circumstances surrounding your loved one's death. Although wrongful deaths may be attributed to an intentional action, these deaths are not necessarily intentional. More often, they are unintentional deaths. An experienced attorney can help you investigate the responsible party or parties involved in the wrongful death.
4. Research Local Wrongful Death Attorneys
Who are the wrongful death lawyers in your area? You will want to choose someone skilled and experienced in this specialized area of legal practice. However, you will also want a lawyer who has knowledge and experience litigating the circumstances involved in your case. So, if your wrongful death suit involves medical malpractice, hire an attorney experienced in medical malpractice. If your case involves defective products, seek out a lawyer who also has a background in cases involving unsafe or malfunctioning products.
Experience with wrongful death law is a major qualification for the right attorney for your case. However, understanding the specific details surrounding your case is another important aspect you should consider.
5. Meet With Prospective Attorneys and Hire a Lawyer Who Fits Your Case
Once you have narrowed your search down to several of the best lawyers for your case, you should meet with them to determine if they are the right fit for you. Not every attorney is right for every client, regardless of their skill. Schedule a short consultation or meeting with your top legal picks. Doing so will allow you to choose the wrongful death lawyer with whom you will feel most comfortable working throughout your case.
You may need a lawyer who is more compassionate toward your feelings during this difficult time while also being a relentless advocate inside the courtroom. Whatever you need, do not settle for less.
Are You Ready To File a Wrongful Death Civil Lawsuit?
You may never feel truly ready to file a wrongful death lawsuit, but the good news is that you do not need to do it alone. The experienced wrongful death lawyers at Ratzan Weissman & Boldt can help walk you through the process step-by-step. We can answer your questions, investigate your wrongful death claim, and explain your legal options in clear, easy-to-understand language.
Our experienced wrongful death lawyers can handle the difficult work, like the legal paperwork, investigations, and negotiations, while keeping you in the driver's seat. This allows you to take all the time you need to grieve and heal emotionally throughout the legal process. Our highly skilled, client-focused, and compassionate wrongful death attorneys are here to help you recover the damages you are rightly owed. Contact us today.