How To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit: The Steps Explained
After the death of a loved one through negligence or ill intentions by a third party, you may be wondering how to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Such actions are not generally part of everyday life, which means the process may be foreign to you. Fortunately, wrongful death attorneys are adept at managing each stage of a wrongful death suit, and they can help guide you through some of the following steps.
1. Establishing Your Eligibility
To establish your eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit, your chosen wrongful death attorney will look at two things: the statute of limitations and your relationship to the deceased. The death must have occurred within two years of filing for a claim to be accepted in California. They also have to ensure that you are the surviving spouse, partner, child, or grandchild of the deceased. If there is no one alive that fits into those categories above, your attorney will determine if you fit into the line of descent for eligibility.
2. Preparing for Litigation
Before you file the lawsuit, your attorney will guide you through the pre-litigation process. This involves an investigation of the facts that outline your legal grounding for filing a lawsuit. It may also mention a figure, which your lawyer may have calculated based on medical bills, funeral costs, loss of support, and more. During this preparation phase, your lawyer will notify the party you believe to be responsible for wrongful death of your intent to file a lawsuit.
3. Starting Negotiations
Many defendants will attempt to settle out of court in many wrongful death lawsuits where the evidence is indisputable. This step can involve negotiating a fair settlement amount to avoid taking the case to trial. If both parties cannot come to an agreement on a fair settlement figure, the next step is filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
4. Filing a Lawsuit
After not being able to come to an agreement, your wrongful death attorney will file a complaint through the courthouse. This document will identify the defendants and will be served to them with information outlining what the lawsuit is for.
5. Beginning Litigation
The litigation process involves strengthening your case as much as possible to head to trial. There is a discovery phase, documentation requests, and interrogations. During litigation, there may also be a pre-trial or arbitration. Even while you are making sure you have enough sound evidence to reach a successful conclusion, you may still be negotiating to reach a settlement. This can continue even after you have filed the lawsuit.
If both parties still cannot agree on a settlement figure, the litigation process will continue until the trial date. At this point, the judge or jury will decide the verdict. With a strong case and ample evidence, this settlement amount may be more than what you may have pushed for in early negotiations.
Even though there can be a lot involved in the average wrongful death lawsuit, everything follows a succinct order. You do not have to feel daunted by the process, especially with a reputable wrongful death lawyer by your side. Request a free consultation today to learn more about your eligibility for a lawsuit and what your unique case steps could look like.