Wrongful death claims are very serious cases and all courts are meticulous in the approach to determining events that contributed to the accidental death. Wrongful death means that someone died because of the gross negligence of another party who violated a reasonable duty of care. There can also be conditions of contributory negligence on the part of the decedent, as well as comparative negligence among multiple parties. In short, wrongful death claims can be complicated even when the case particulars appear obvious. There are certain steps that must be taken before a wrongful death claim can be made.
Hire an Attorney First
It is practically impossible for a novice individual, who is usually the next of kin, to win a wrongful death case without an attorney. It is very important to retain a local wrongful death attorney before proceeding with any claim, and make sure it is done as soon as possible. For example, if a car accident resulted with a death in Manhattan but the victim was from Vermont, it would be wise to retain a wrongful death lawyer in New York. They would be knowledgeable and equipped to understand the local and state laws in regards to the accident and the case.
Statutes of limitation are always applicable to any wrongful death claim, and it is very difficult to get the limitations extended unless the case is unusual. Wrongful death can occur as a result from negligent actions from long ago, especially in medical malpractice situations that take a long time to manifest.
Hiring an attorney immediately is important also because the attorney must present the evidence to the court beforehand because the adjudication procedure is subject to court approval. Failure to comply with all court regulations can result in immediate summary dismissal. Having an attorney can stop this action.
Standing to Sue
There are very specific rules concerning who may sue on behalf of a wrongful death victim. This must be determined first. Normally, the next of kin is either a spouse or a victim’s children. Absent these parties, standing can be extended to parents of the victim or guardians of the children. There are also situations where the executor of the estate can sue, including anyone assigned a trusteeship.
A trustee can include the estate attorney, so there is always a legal avenue for a wrongful death victim regardless of a family member. But, the court determines who actually has the legal standing to sue. The attorney then files the case on behalf of those designated individuals.
The attorney addresses the proper legal respondents in the initial hearing to proceed with the claim. The court determines who can be sued as negligent in the wrongful death claim with the same order that establishes standing to sue. Having all information concerning the death is very important before hiring an attorney. The wrongful death representative will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident and claim, then advise on claim validity and possible actions from the court or respondents.
An attorney is important because there is always a possibility of multiple respondents and a non-professional may not realize how to maximize a claim. The burden of proof in a wrongful death claim is a preponderance of the evidence, which is a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt, and the responsibility of proof is incumbent on the plaintiff’s legal counsel.
It is important to understand that many government agencies are exempt from wrongful death claims that occur while they are officially discharging duties, such as in a reasonable police car chase. Once the proper plaintiffs and respondents have been recognized and the attorney is confident of sufficient evidence to prove negligence, then it is time to actually file the suit. Do not delay, as filing is subject to strict limitation statutes in most states. Time is of the essence.
Researcher Lisa Coleman shares when a person can consider a lawsuit after a wrongful death of a loved one has occurred, and discusses the important role a local wrongful death lawyer has when filing such a claim. She recently read online how the Perecman Firm, an experienced wrongful death lawyer in New York group, is equipped to represent a client who has recently lost a loved one in an accident in the New York City metropolitan area.