Wrongful Death Claims & Lawsuits
The death of a loved one is hard to endure. When that death is caused by the negligence or misconduct of another person, it only complicates an already difficult situation. With so much going on, and a finite amount of time to make decisions due to state-specific statute of limitations, knowing when to connect with a personal injury lawyer to handle your wrongful death claim can be the differentiating factor in whether or not you are fairly compensated for your loss.
Should I Contact a Lawyer for a Wrongful Death Claim?
To help assess the need for a personal injury lawyer, see if you answer "yes" to any of the following questions:
- Did someone cause a motor vehicle accident that resulted in death?
- Did a medical professional’s negligence and/or misconduct result in death?
- Did neglect or abuse at a nursing home or care facility result in death?
- Did the use of a defective, mislabeled or dangerous product (e.g., pharmaceuticals, machinery or household chemicals) cause death?
- Did a workplace accident or hazardous work environment (e.g., toxic chemical exposure) result in death?
- Did death occur while someone was committing a criminal act?
- Did death occur during a supervised activity (e.g., school field trip)?
Steps to Take If a Wrongful Death Occurred
Identify state-specific filing deadlines — Wrongful death filing deadlines, known as the “statute of limitations,” impose time limits to file a wrongful death lawsuit. These deadlines vary by state, but typically fall in a 1-3 year timeframe. There are also different state-specific triggers that start the statute of limitations timer. Research and understand the timelines in your state to know when you must file, or contact a qualified personal injury lawyer to discuss your state and claim specifically.
Request death certificate — Request and obtain several official copies of the decedent’s death certificate.
Request medical records — Medical records provide a significant amount of information that may be important for a wrongful death lawsuit. Obtain copies for reference, or have a lawyer help you.
Document any medical and funeral expenses — Make sure to document all medical costs associated with the wrongful death claim (e.g., ambulance/emergency services, hospital bills, etc.). Expenses to document include medical bills, prescription costs and insurance co-pays.
Also save records of all costs related to funeral and burial. Those costs may be reimbursed in a successful wrongful death lawsuit.
Identify "real parties of interest" (i.e., family) — "Real parties of interest" typically refers to the decedent’s immediate family (spouse and children). If the decedent is unmarried, then the decedent’s parents are typically identified as the "real parties of interest."
Additionally, depending on state law, "real parties of interest" may include more distant relatives (e.g., siblings and grandparents), life partners and other financial dependents. Contact a qualified personal injury lawyer to learn about your specific state laws.
Contact a local personal injury lawyer — Wrongful death lawsuits are typically complicated cases that require proof of negligence or intentional harm. Additionally, compensation is dependent on numerous factors such as pain and suffering, loss of future income, emotional loss to family and friends, etc. that are best calculated by experienced professionals. In order to help assure that you are able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit effectively, it is advised to contact a local personal injury lawyer.
Keep records of all related items — After a wrongful death has occurred, it is important to document the incident and all precursory events, injuries and other related conversations, paperwork and expenses. Maintaining records and keeping everything organized is useful for any claims or lawsuits that result.
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