Do I Need an Attorney to Pursue a Wrongful Death Case?
- March 29, 2017
When a loved one passes away due to the neglect or intentional actions of another party, there are grounds to file a wrongful death suit. Some wonder if it’s necessary to hire an attorney in order to pursue this type of case. The short answer is that a relative who meets the standards set by the local jurisdiction or the executor of the deceased person’s estate can file and pursue the case without benefit of legal counsel. While this is possible, it is often not advisable. Here are some of the reasons why it makes sense to find a personal injury attorney who has experience with wrongful death cases and authorize that legal counsel to pursue the case.
The Time Limit for Filing a Legal Notice or Claim
Filing a claim of wrongful death does involve a fair amount of paperwork. In many jurisdictions, the filing must take place within a certain amount of time after the death occurs. That time frame may be no more than a few months after the death. Someone who is unaware of this limit could find that it passes before all the data is collected for the paperwork. An attorney will be aware of how much time remains to file the claim with the court and ensure all the paperwork meets the court’s standards. This is important, because paperwork rejected due to some flaw does not provide the plaintiff with any extra time to file.
Filing the Actual Suit
There is also a time limit for filing the actual suit. Many people don’t realize that the legal notice or claim is only the first step in the process. Essentially, it serves to notify the court that a suit will be filed within a time frame that’s in compliance with the court’s standards. Typically, the actual suit must be filed in two years or less of the actual death.
Again, the documentation that is necessary to file the suit can be complicated for anyone who does not have legal experience. An attorney who has handled wrongful death suits in the past will be aware of what must be filed in order to meet the qualifications set by the court.
The Complexity of the Suit
Did you know there are differences in wrongful death suits that involve medical malpractice versus those that are brought due to an accident that took place because of the alleged actions of the accused party? Depending on how the death came about, the details that must be addressed and the structure of the lawsuit itself will be affected.
Understanding the Types of Damages the Court Will Entertain
Not everyone understands what types of damages may be sought as part of a wrongful death suit. Choosing to file without benefit of legal counsel could result in overlooking some kind of compensation that the plaintiff can legally seek. An attorney is in a position to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the death and determine what sorts of damages may be included in the suit.
Depending on the particulars of the case, it’s possible to seek damages for more than mental anguish. The suit could seek compensation for the projected income the deceased would have generated if the death had not taken place. Medical expenses and even funeral and burial costs may be included in the suit. If a spouse or child loses access to health insurance or a pension plan because of the death, claims for those assets may also be part of the suit.
Allowing More Time to Grieve
Attempting to pursue a wrongful death case without the benefit of legal counsel means investing a great deal of time and energy into the process. There’s the research that must be done in order to ensure the filings are accurate and meet the court’s standards. The time spent talking with witnesses and building a case is also a tremendous task to pursue while attempting to grieve.
Choosing to place the matter in the hands of an attorney alleviates much of the stress associated with preparing the case, filing documents in accordance with the court’s standards, and having to deal with all the details associated with the action. The result is that the spouse or other loved one initiating the case can focus more on mourning the loss while the attorney takes care of the processes and procedures.
Remember that just because it is possible to do something alone, it’s not always advisable to do so. In the case of wrongful death suits, seek out an attorney who can offer counsel and representation. In the long run, having legal counsel on hand will make it easier to move forward with the case and improve the odds of a favorable outcome.