About the Wrongful Death Claims Process
Regardless of whether your loved one’s death was the result of a car accident, truck wreck, slip-and-fall or incident of medical malpractice, the process of holding the responsible party accountable usually is based on proving the elements of negligence.
In most ordinary contexts, “negligent” simply means not acting in a reasonable and prudent manner under the circumstances. It can mean that someone did something they should not have done, such as texting while driving, or that a person did not do something that they should have done, such as checking a patient’s medical history before conducting a procedure. There are four steps in determining whether there was negligence in a certain situation:
- Did one party owe a duty of care to the other?
- Was that duty breached?
- Did the harm arise as a result of the breach of duty?
- What damages arose as a result?
Each of these elements must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that they are more likely than not to be true.
Although most wrongful death lawsuits can be filed up to two years after the decedent’s death, it is better not to wait until just before the running of the statute of limitations to retain an attorney. Wrongful death cases need a considerable amount of time to investigate and prepare for trial.
Medical and police reports must be reviewed. Accident scenes may need to be visited and photographed. In many cases, especially those involving medical malpractice or defective products, experts must be enlisted. Waiting to speak to a lawyer can potentially reduce the amount ultimately recovered by the family because of spoliation of evidence and other factors.