Avoid These Mistakes in Your Wrongful Death Claim
When a loved one dies unexpectedly, it is an emotional and overwhelming experience for the family. However, when the loss is both unexpected and the result of another person’s negligent behavior, it can be extra difficult.
Aside from the emotional grief from losing a loved one this way, families must now consider the extra financial expense of providing a proper burial and carrying on daily life without the support of their deceased loved one. While the family strives to do what is best for the surviving members, they often have little experience with the law.
It may seem strange to put a price tag on the life of a loved one, but wrongful death lawsuits provide the family with essential compensation. Wrongful death suits are an option for grieving families to receive justice in addition to the financial support and security necessary to help offset their loss after such a tragic event.
It is important to know some of the most common mistakes to avoid that could negatively interfere with any wrongful death claim you may file in the future. Below are some of the most common mistakes people make when filing a wrongful death claim.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A wrongful death suit is a civil lawsuit where the fault is expressed solely in monetary terms. If the liable party is facing criminal action, the family of the deceased can still proceed with a wrongful death case against them.
The Law Offices of Brent A. Duque offers intelligent legal guidance and experienced representation to clients who have lost a family member due to another’s negligence or wrongful acts. We are sensitive to the fact that you have suffered an incredible loss, and are committed to helping you navigate through the difficult legal process that often accompanies a wrongful death action. We talk to our clients a minimum of once every 2 weeks during the duration of their case and are easily available to you through telephone, text, and/or email until your case is brought to resolution.
To prove another’s negligence, a plaintiff (the family member initiating the lawsuit on behalf of the decedent’s estate) must show four things:
- The person had a duty to the plaintiff
- The person breached their duty
- The person’s breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s damages
- The plaintiff suffered actual damages
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
When a wrongful death occurs, a family member may act as a representative of the decedent’s estate or they may hire an attorney to represent them in that capacity. The surviving family members who typically are eligible to file a wrongful death claim include the decedents:
- Romantic partner who financially depended on the decedent
- Possibly extended family members, such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles
Common Wrongful Death Claim Mistakes to Avoid
A wrongful death claim can provide vital compensation for surviving family members. This type of legal claim can offer loved ones the financial security they need to move forward, and it can have a significant impact on a family’s future. Too many times, however, surviving loved ones lose this opportunity due to simple, honest errors, including:
Fighting Within the Family
Although it seems natural that now is the time for you and your family to come together, many people are surprised when their family members start fighting. You will have difficult conversations and make even more challenging decisions. You and the members of your family will be in a compromised state of mind that is unfamiliar with touchy emotions and elevated stress levels. There will be some disagreements, but it is important during these heartbreaking times to trust and listen to one another. Arguing between family members will only make this process more difficult. Additionally, there is more room for error when communication is lacking between interested parties.
Speaking Publicly About the Death
When people pass away in a tragic manner, it often becomes public knowledge. The death of your loved one may be covered by local newspapers or national news media outlets, depending on the severity and facts of the case. It is important to refrain from speaking to others about the death, especially the news media. Not only should this be a time when your family’s privacy should be respected, but any kind of statement made may be used against you in your wrongful death case, even if it seems harmless at the time. You might accidentally imply that your loved one was partially at fault for his or her death, or say something else that could be taken out of context. Never agree to say anything publicly about the death, and just take this time to focus on you and your family.
Talking to the Insurance Company
An insurance company of the responsible party may try to contact you and offer compensation. It is important to remember that the insurance company is not on your side and is trying to pay you as little as possible to make this claim go away. It is best to refrain from talking to them completely, even if they try to convince you they are just trying to help. You should never talk to an insurance company rep without first talking to your lawyer. An attorney can speak to the insurance company on your behalf to avoid the tricks they usually use to reduce or deny your family the compensation you need.
Failing to Preserve Evidence
Since you are likely not professionally versed in the law, it can be hard to know just what information will be important to a case. Families may clean out their loved one’s belongings or simply not retain documents or other evidence provided to them. Even if you are not sure of your rights or if you want to pursue a legal claim, keep any information related to your loved one’s health, accident, and death.
Accepting a Settlement Offer Too Quickly.
In addition to refraining from speaking to insurance agents, be careful to avoid agreeing to any other settlement offers without careful consideration. Insurance companies may seem sympathetic and compassionate, but grieving families should make no mistake. These companies are out to protect their own interests, and they will negotiate aggressively. They often try to convince surviving family members to agree to a settlement quickly, knowing the situation can be difficult both financially and emotionally. Once you accept a settlement agreement, you are unable to ask for additional compensation in the future. You want to be sure that the money you are given is enough to take care of you and your family’s expenses from the death. This is especially important when the decedent is someone who provided a substantial amount of the income that supported your family. Often, these fast settlements are much less than the family deserves.
Failing to Consider Potentially Liable Parties
The party who is primarily at fault may be obvious from the beginning. However, families should consider what other parties may have contributed to the cause of death. This could include a parent company, employer, or partnering organization. Including all of the responsible parties in the case can provide for larger compensation to cover all of the expenses that the family incurs as a result of the death of their loved one.
Waiting Too Long to Seek Legal Action
In California, you have only two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim. In most cases, families need time to process the situation and determine how they are going to deal with it. However, while you are going through it, you also should not delay filing a wrongful death claim. If you wait too long, your family may be barred from receiving the compensation you deserve altogether.
Not Having a Full Understanding of Your Rights
Every wrongful death situation is unique, and the specifics of your claim will dictate the best way forward. A legal team experienced in wrongful death claims can help loved ones obtain the information they need to make informed, effective decisions.
Negotiating Without an Attorney
Although there are online resources available that claim to provide someone without a law license the knowledge they need to proceed without an attorney, it is not advisable to do so. Wrongful death cases can be extremely complicated, and the court system can be complex with its strict requirements and deadlines. Investing in a reputable attorney with experience in wrongful death cases will increase your chances of success without adding the unnecessary stress of trying to understand the legal process alone.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer in California
After losing a loved one, you have many things to focus on, including determining how you and the rest of your family are going to move on. Now is not the time to agonize over all of the details a wrongful death claim involves.
Our legal team at Duque Law Group is comprised of award-winning and nationally recognized trial lawyers who collaborate with nurses, doctors and medical experts regularly. Though we understand the nature of injuries, we are not physicians, and always encourage victims to seek treatment as soon after an accident as possible, and to follow up and heed their doctors’ advice.
Call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.