What Takes Time in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
When a person dies unexpectedly, surviving family members must cope with their grief and the practical implications of their loved one’s death. Considerable expenses, such as medical bills and funeral expenses, often accompany an unexpected death. Additionally, family members may suffer financial losses due to lost income or loss of benefits if the decedent was a parent or spouse.
Unintentional injuries claim hundreds of thousands of lives each year, and filing a wrongful death lawsuit may be an option in many cases. When a person deliberately acts in a way they know could cause harm or fails to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to others, any death caused by their actions or inactions may be considered a wrongful death.
Each wrongful death claim has unique factors. It’s challenging to know the average time for wrongful death settlements to be resolved because each case differs. Some receive quick settlements, while other cases take years to resolve. Learning about the factors that affect how long it takes to settle a wrongful death can help you understand what to expect when filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you have questions about filing a wrongful death suit, contact our Wrongful Death attorneys today.
When the Defendant Rejects Responsibility for Your Loved One’s Death
Defendants may reject responsibility for a person’s death for many reasons. Suppose an individual with prior drunk driving offenses causes a crash resulting in a person’s death. They may refuse to complete a field test for sobriety or take a breathalyzer test. Consequently, it may take longer for the police to gather evidence and file criminal charges. The driver may refuse to take responsibility in a civil proceeding because they fear it will lead to criminal charges or influence the outcome of a trial.
Defendants may also refuse responsibility for other reasons. They may fear their insurance rates will increase or risk losing their license, which could impact their ability to work if they need a driver’s license. Whatever their reasons, some defendants extend the length of time required to settle wrongful death claims by refusing to accept responsibility.
Gathering and Examining Evidence
The plaintiff must present compelling evidence that persuades a jury of the defendant’s guilt to win their case. This is one of the reasons loved ones benefit from hiring a wrongful death lawyer. An experienced wrongful death attorney knows what evidence to seek and how it can be used to build a compelling legal case, increasing the likelihood that their clients will receive suitable wrongful death settlements.
Gathering and reviewing evidence does take time. Some of the evidence injury lawyers seek includes the following:
- Accident photos
- Dashcam footage
- Driving records
- Mobile device data
- Personnel records
- Police reports
- Security camera footage
- Toxicology reports
While it may not take long to get accident photos from their clients, wrongful death attorneys may have to issue subpoenas to receive copies of accident photos from the defendant or get a copy of the defendant’s mobile device data. If there’s reason to suspect the driver was distracted because they were sending text messages or talking on the phone, their mobile device data could be crucial evidence that must be acquired to prove distracted driving at trial.
Interviewing Any Witnesses
In addition to gathering physical evidence, your law firm may use witnesses to build your case. Securing witness statements can be time-consuming because the witnesses must be identified and located first. While some may be referenced in the police report, others may be identified through security or dashcam footage.
Once your legal team identifies the witnesses, they must schedule an interview. Some witnesses may not cooperate because they don’t want to go to court or find the process stressful. Depending on the number of witnesses and whether you must compel their cooperation, this process could take weeks or even months.
Negotiating a Settlement Amount When the Insurance Company Refuses to Pay
Often, insurance companies are the ones that pay wrongful death settlements on behalf of their clients. While some insurance companies try to negotiate settlement amounts to avoid a trial, you may deal with delays if the insurance company denies your claim. Some insurance companies fight all claims as a matter of policy, and it may take months or years to resolve the case if the insurance company refuses to negotiate.
Taking The Case To Trial If Necessary
Although most wrongful death and personal injury cases are settled without a trial, there are reasons your case may go before a jury. If the defendant or their insurance company refuses to accept responsibility, your legal team may have to prove guilt in court.
Another reason for going to court involves the settlement amount. Insurance companies don’t want to pay more than they have to and may not offer enough money to cover your expenses. While you may qualify for survivor benefits, those benefits don’t mitigate the defendant’s responsibility to pay a fair wrongful death settlement.
Going to trial takes longer than agreeing to a settlement. Some cases that go to trial can take years to resolve.
Relationship With The Decedent
Your relationship to your loved one could affect your lawsuit. A spouse can file immediately, but the decedent’s children typically have to wait until one year after the death occurred before filing. Children may also receive an exception to the standard statute of limitations for wrongful death claims and qualify to file a lawsuit when they turn 18.
How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Fight For Your Rights
An experienced wrongful death attorney can make all the difference in your case. While no amount of money can make up for the loss of a loved one, we work to ensure that you receive the compensation you are entitled to receive. Contact us today to learn how Elite Litigation Group can help you resolve your wrongful death lawsuit.
We’ll make sure your case is filed before the statute of limitations expires and gather the evidence needed to build your case. We’ll help you understand what you can expect from the legal process and fight to get you fair compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death.
Contact us for a Free Case Evaluation to discuss your options. We are here to answer your questions.
Dresden, D. (2022). What to know about the breathalyzer test.
Elflein, J. (2022). Unintentional injury in the U.S. – Statistics & Facts.
Interviewing Prosecution Witnesses. (2022).