Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Many people wonder why they need to hire an attorney for a wrongful death case. After all, if the other person was clearly at fault, the court will see that, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The offending party will likely have an attorney that will try and twist their story. Though they may not always be successful, approaching court without an attorney can greatly minimize your settlement.
Most importantly, however, you will be struggling with grief during your case. Even if you feel calm and collected in general, the case will likely bring up triggering conversations and information about your loved one’s death. It is not uncommon for victims’ families to become emotional in court. If you are trying to represent yourself, this emotion could get in the way of your message and muddy your point.
It is always best to give yourself space to grieve and allow an attorney to handle your case. We understand the legal system and can properly fight for you and your loved one. We give you the very best chance at compensation that is fair for the pain, suffering, and loss that you have endured.
How to Establish Fault for a Wrongful Death Case
In some situations of wrongful death, proving fault is fairly simple. For example, if your loved one was murdered during an armed robbery, the guilty party is the robber who harmed them. However, in other situations, fault is not as straightforward. For example, in the case of a negligent driver, there needs to be evidence that the driver was acting recklessly when they killed your loved one. This can include things such as security footage, phone records, eyewitness accounts, coroner analysis, and more.
The ultimate goal is to present an airtight picture of what happened to the court. In order for a wrongful death case to be considered, the court needs to see signs of negligence, reckless endangerment, malice, or intentional harmful action.
Settlement vs. Litigation in a Wrongful Death Case
Some wrongful death cases end up in court. This is called litigation. Both sides of the argument will present their cases to the judge, who will determine which side has the more valid argument. If there is any doubt that negligence or harmful action was present, the judge may rule the other party as innocent.
However, many wrongful death cases do not get as far as litigation. Many times, litigation is reserved for situations in which either side could feasibly be correct. However, in lots of wrongful death cases, it is clear who the perpetrator is and what they have done wrong. In these situations, the attorneys may decide to settle. This means that they come to an agreement outside of court.
A settlement payout may be what you were asking for or a little bit less, depending on what your attorney sees is appropriate in the negotiations. If you do receive less than you were asking for, remember that litigation is expensive. By avoiding this process, your attorney saves you time, money, and lots of heartache. For many people, the slight difference in compensation is well worth the ability to settle out of court.
Compensation for Wrongful Death
As we mentioned, a payout will not bring your loved one back to life. Realistically, there is simply no way to put a price on the value of a life, especially when you are in mourning. It is important to remember that this is not the objective. As you determine a settlement amount, always keep in mind that the sum discussed is not how much your loved one is worth. Instead, it is a sum that is meant to compensate for their financial absence.
Because your loved one died unexpectedly, there are a lot of financial structures that fall apart. You were likely counting on their income, for example, and now you must adjust your finances to exclude that income. For most families, that loss is significant. Income is one of the considerations when determining a wrongful death settlement. Others include:
- Any medical bills the deceased incurred before they died
- Any suffering the deceased endured before they died
- Damages to property
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of companionship
- Value of services your loved one would have provided if they’d lived
Of course, some of these are more abstract than others. For example, companionship does not have a price tag on it, so it is difficult to assign a sum to it when it is lost. However, your attorney can talk you through these aspects of your compensation sum to determine what you should rightfully receive.
You should not only be compensated for the practical expenses of death, such as funeral and burial services, but you should also be compensated for household income changes and your own pain. Take heart in knowing that your attorney, and the courts, see all these things as worthy of financial compensation.
What to Expect From a Wrongful Death Attorney
Many people get their idea of lawyers from TV shows and movies. However, unlike those forms of entertainment, all attorneys are different. Your wrongful death attorney should be diligent and firm in the courtroom, but not so in meetings with you. Your attorney should be compassionate, empathetic, understanding, comforting, and patient, as you will need to discuss very painful and sensitive topics with them.
If you interview an attorney who cannot give you solace while simultaneously building your case and collecting evidence, you need to keep looking. Your emotional state is important, and your attorney is your primary source of support in the courtroom. The legal process following wrongful deaths can be difficult and complicated, so you want to be sure that your closest ally is someone with whom you can speak freely.
Additionally, you can expect that your attorney will keep you up to date on any deadlines, paperwork, court dates, evidence, updates, etc., that occurs in your case.
Contact Easton & Easton
Here at Easton & Easton, we treat our clients like family. When wrongful death cases come through our doors, we mourn your loss with you. We are here to help bring some financial comfort to your tragedy and help to put you in a position to properly heal. Contact us today for more information.