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How Does A Wrongful Death Claim Work?

Wrongful Death Cases: Understanding The Basics

In every state, including California, the process for dealing with a wrongful death case generally starts with filing a claim, investigating the details of the case, and then determining the amount of money that should be awarded. However, the specific rules about who can file a lawsuit and how long they have to do it can vary from one state to another. A lawyer from The Scranton Law Firm can help you understand how these rules apply in your state and can fight for your rights.

When someone files a wrongful death claim, it means they are seeking justice for a loved one who died because of someone else’s careless actions or illegal behavior. While many of these cases are due to accidents caused by negligence, some claims are filed because the death was caused on purpose, like in cases of homicide.

State Laws and Time Limits for Filing

Each state has its own time limits, known as statutes of limitations, which dictate how long you have to start a legal action in a wrongful death case. Most states give you at least one year to file your case, but some states allow more time.

The starting point for these time limits can also differ. Usually, the countdown begins on the day the person died. However, there are exceptions, like when a death results from a long-term illness.

A lawyer can explain the specific time limits in your state and why it’s a good idea to act quickly to avoid delays. At The Scranton Law Firm, our experienced attorneys are ready to guide you through the wrongful death timeline, making sure you understand each step and helping you move forward with your claim.

Who Can Initiate a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In cases of wrongful death, who can file a lawsuit? Generally, if the person who passed away (the decedent) was married, their spouse is typically eligible to initiate the lawsuit. While the specifics can vary from state to state, it’s common for either family members or the executor of the decedent’s estate to have the right to file, and spouses are often recognized as both.

If the decedent was unmarried and did not leave a will, the state has guidelines to determine who should be next in line to file the lawsuit.

In some states, there isn’t a clear system for deciding who is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In such instances, those who file may end up being grouped together into a collective lawsuit overseen by a judge.

 

The Wrongful Death Lawsuit Process Starts with an Investigation

To start a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s crucial to investigate all the details surrounding the case. A lawyer from The Scranton Law Firm can help the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) look into everything that happened. This helps the lawyer figure out if there’s a solid reason for the wrongful death claim, assess the damages suffered by the plaintiff, and decide how much money to ask for as compensation.

Lawyers usually begin by looking at how much the person who died (the decedent) was earning at the time of their death and their expected work-life duration. In some states, like California, lawyers can also consider non-financial losses in wrongful death cases.

Figuring Out Who Is Responsible To sue someone for wrongful death, you need to prove they are legally responsible. This means showing that the person you’re suing (the defendant) didn’t meet their duty to act safely, in legal terms, this involves proving:

  • The defendant was supposed to act with reasonable care.
  • The defendant failed in that duty, either by not doing something they should have or by doing something they shouldn’t have.
  • This failure directly caused the injury that led to the death.
  • The death resulted in significant financial losses for the plaintiff.
 

Sending a Demand Letter Sometimes, a lawyer might start trying to settle the case by sending out a demand letter. This is a formal notice asking the other party (often an insurance company) to pay a certain amount to settle the dispute.

The insurance company might not agree with what the demand letter asks for, leading to negotiations. During these talks, both sides try to agree on a fair amount of money. If they can’t agree after several tries, the plaintiff might decide to take the case to court to seek the compensation they believe they deserve.

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Taking the Case to Court

If negotiations fail to reach a satisfactory agreement, the next step is to take the case to court. This process begins with the plaintiff, assisted by their lawyer from The Scranton Law Firm, formally filing a lawsuit against the defendant.

Filing the Lawsuit: The process starts when the plaintiff files a legal document called a complaint in court. This document lays out the facts of the case, the laws that were allegedly violated, and the damages being claimed.

Discovery Phase: After the lawsuit is filed, both sides enter a phase called discovery. During discovery, each party investigates the other’s legal claims and defenses. They exchange documents, take depositions (interviews conducted under oath), and gather as much information as possible to build their cases.

Motions: Before the trial, either party can file motions to request certain rulings from the court. For example, a motion for summary judgment asks the court to decide the case based on the facts that are not disputed.

Trial: If the case is not dismissed or resolved by motions, it goes to trial. During the trial, both sides present their evidence and arguments. Witnesses can be called to testify, and the lawyers will present their case to either a judge or a jury.

Verdict: At the conclusion of the trial, the judge or jury will make a decision regarding the defendant’s liability and, if applicable, the amount of damages that the defendant must pay to the plaintiff.

Appeal: If either party disagrees with the trial’s outcome, they can file an appeal to a higher court, requesting a review of the legal decisions made during the trial.

Going to court is a complex process and can be quite lengthy, but it is an essential avenue for seeking justice and compensation when negotiation attempts fail. The Scranton Law Firm is available to assist you with your wrongful death case whenever you require our expertise. Our team of seasoned wrongful death attorneys is equipped to guide you through every stage of your legal journey, whether your case is resolved through settlement negotiations or proceeds to a full trial. We are committed to providing professional and thorough legal representation to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

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