What is the process for a wrongful death case?

Wrongful Death cases can be very complex issues involving many parties and clouded with strong emotions of loss, confusion and often anger. For that reason, laws specifically detail to process and procedure for pursuing such claims.

Because wrongful death actions are brought on behalf of the deceased party’s estate, the first stage typically involves the designation of a personal representative.  Once the personal representative has been determined, it is necessary to identify the decedent’s survivors. Survivors are described by statute as the decedent’s spouse, children, parents and may also may include other blood relatives if they were wholly dependent on the decedent. Children born out of wedlock also may be considered survivors. By statute, children of a deceased mother born out of wedlock are automatically considered survivors whereas children of a deceased father are only considered survivors if the father assumed responsibility for the child’s support. The personal representative is also charged with identifying all the medical bills and other obligations related to the cause of death that may be economic damages in any claim filed.

Once all of the information has been gathered concerning the survivors and the cause of death, a claim for damages is made. Initially, a demand is made against the defendant requesting a monetary settlement. Considering the complexity of a wrongful death claim, theses types of cases often do not settle, and a lawsuit must be filed. In the event the claim does not settle, a formal legal claim, or complaint, is drafted and served on the defendant and the court clerk where proper jurisdiction and venue exists. That filing triggers the start of the lawsuit. Following the actual filing, a process called discovery takes place where each side makes requests for certain statements, documents and admissions from the opposing side in an effort to support their claim, or refute any defenses the other side may assert. Witnesses are identified and deposed, or asked questions under oath, to establish the facts of the case, which include the cause of death, circumstances surrounding that cause and determine the extent of damages which may be due to the estate (and survivors).

At some point in time, before a trial date is set, the parties will hold a mediation conference to see if the matter can be resolved without the necessity of a trial.  Failure to come to an agreement at mediation, the parties will declare an impasse, request the court to set a trial date and rely on a jury to determine if the defendant is responsible for the death of the decedent and, if so, what the appropriate amount of damages should be.

If a verdict is rendered in favor of the estate of the decedent, damages will be awarded to the decedent’s estate, and then distributed to survivors as specified in the verdict. If the verdict is rendered in the favor of the defendant, no award will be made against the defendant and the case will be dismissed. Either side has the ability to appeal a decision if the disagree with the outcome of the case and/or one side believes the court may have abused its discretion when allowing or denying evidence in the proceedings. It is important to remember that this can be a very lengthy and emotional process. It is imperative that you are represented by a law firm experienced in the area of wrongful death litigation.

More questions about the process of wrongful death litigation? Call the Law Office of Dan Newlin  & Partners at (407) 888-8000. Wrongful death litigation can be very complex, and it is very important that you consult with a experienced attorney in order to fully understand the process. Dan Newlin & Partners are proud to have assembled a team of experience, professional and compassionate attorneys who have proven track records in wrongful death litigation. Call or contact us at any time to arrange for a meeting with a member of our team. Remember that we are available to meet with you and your family any day of the week, and at time that is convenient for you. It is our philosophy that only a well informed client is in a position to make major decision concerning their case. For that reason, we make keeping you informed our number one priority. Please call or contact us today. The call is free.