The loss of a loved one is always tragic, but the pain of losing them because of someone else’s negligence is unthinkable.
If you have experienced the death of a loved one in an accident, the loss is likely accompanied by a financial burden that is difficult to think about. A wrongful death attorney in Hammond can alleviate that part of your suffering by ensuring that you don’t have to worry about money during your grief.
How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Hammond
A wrongful death case is similar to a personal injury lawsuit. The difference is that in a personal injury lawsuit, the injured party brings the lawsuit and makes the claim against a defendant, and in a wrongful death lawsuit, the family or estate of a deceased person makes the claim.
To file a wrongful death lawsuit, your first step is to speak with a Hammond wrongful death attorney who can review your case. This review should be free and without any obligation to retain the attorney. However, it is an essential first step in the process.
The stages in a wrongful death lawsuit
There are several steps in a wrongful death case. Additionally, each case is unique, and so it is impossible to tell you exactly what will happen in advance. Still, this is a basic overview of what you can expect.
- Initial consultation.
During this meeting, your attorney will meet with you and other members or representatives of the decedent to learn about the case, review the circumstances of the death, and consider the potential liability of the responsible party (or parties).
At this stage, the attorney will assess the viability of your wrongful death lawsuit and offer advice for moving forward. They will let you know if they are willing to take the case or not.
- Retaining the attorney’s services.
After the initial consultation, you can choose to either retain the lawyer’s services or not. If you choose to have the lawyer represent you, you will sign a contract that outlines their services, fees, and pay structure. At Yosha Law Firm, for example, we talk you through our contract, which states that you will only be charged if you receive a settlement or court award.
- Investigation stage
During this stage, your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of your loved one’s death. This may include interviewing witnesses, collecting video surveillance footage or images of the accident, reviewing medical records, examining police reports, and more.
- Identifying defendants
The responsible party may be an individual, a group of people, an entity, or an organization. For example, if your loved one was killed in a car accident by a negligent driver, that driver may be the sole defendant in the case.
If, however, a surgeon made a surgical error that was the result of the hospital’s bad policies, the surgeon and the hospital may bear responsibility for the death.
- Documenting damages
Your attorney will work with you to determine the total of the damages incurred because of your loved one’s death. This may include medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering.
- First stage of negotiations
In many situations, the case never has to go all the way to court. One of the first ways of resolving the case is to negotiate with the responsible parties or their insurance companies before filing a lawsuit.
If you are offered a settlement at this point, your attorney will be able to advise you on whether or not it is a good idea to accept it. Note that at this point, the responsible party will often offer a very low settlement, and the case will need to continue.
- Filing the lawsuit
If there is not an agreeable settlement in the negotiation phase, your attorney will prepare and then file the former lawsuit. The complaint will explain the legal claims, the damages you are seeking, and the basis for holding the defendant(s) liable for the wrongful death. Typically lawsuits are filed in the court where the death occurred.
The discovery phase of a lawsuit is when both parties–attorneys for the defendant(s) and the plaintiff–exchange information and evidence.
- Next phase of negotiations
Throughout the entire process, there are always opportunities for settlement discussions. Representatives from the insurance company or the defendant’s lawyer may reach out to your wrongful death attorney to offer a settlement.
If there is a mutually acceptable settlement offered, the case may be resolved at this point without going to trial.
If the case is not resolved by this point, it will be time for the case to go to trial. You can read our recent blog post about the stages of a personal injury trial for more information, as the court procedures are basically the same for both types of cases.
At the end of the trial, the judge or jury will announce a verdict on the liability of the defendant. If the trial ends in your favor, you will receive a court award. Your attorney’s fees will be deducted from your total, and you will be able to use the remainder of your award to pay for your expenses and losses.