The Stages of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that allows certain family members to hold a negligent person or company financially responsible for their loved one’s death. Spouses, children, parents, and financially dependent relatives might be able to recover damages under state law.
Your loved one’s death triggers the litigation process. Here are the steps to take when seeking wrongful death damages in Florida:
- Contact an experienced attorney, and provide details about your loved one’s death. If you have a list of witnesses, share it with the attorney. The more you tell your attorney the more she can help you.
- Your attorney will investigate your claim. This includes talking to witnesses and going over the decedent’s medical records and autopsy report. She might have more questions for you during the investigation.
- File the wrongful death lawsuit and notify the defendant about your allegations. (This is called service of process.) Your attorney will help determine where to file the lawsuit. There is a principle called jurisdiction that limits courts’ authority to make legal decisions. If a court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the parties or the claims, then it can’t decide the case. Also, make sure you file the case within two years of the death.
- Next is discovery, which is a process where both sides request information from the other. You might have to provide evidence to the defense, and vice versa. In some cases you can request that privileged information be protected from discovery. The court might also step in if the defense refuses to hand over relevant documents or other information. The goal is to help each side plan their arguments so there aren’t a bunch of surprises at trial.
- The trial will begin once discovery closes. Some trials take longer than others. It depends on the complexities of the case and whether there’s a judge or jury. But generally you can expect that both sides will present their versions of the case, and both may cross-examine the other’s witnesses.
- Once both sides have presented their case the judge or jury will make a decision. You may appeal if you’re unhappy with the outcome.
These are the basic stages of a wrongful death lawsuit. But other variables may arise. For example, either side may file a motion that attempts to end the case before it goes to trial. If the evidence is conclusive then you could ask the judge to decide the legal questions instead of sending the case to a jury. This is called a motion for summary judgment.
However, wrongful death trials can be painful and emotional. You don’t have to go through litigation at all. At any point before trial the parties can try to reach a settlement agreement instead.
Contact Us Today
Contact a West Palm Beach personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if your loved one dies because of another person’s negligent or reckless behavior. We will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of companionship.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Jacksonville, Miami, Fort Myers, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.