When a loved one dies, it can be difficult to discover that the death was the result of another person’s negligence, recklessness, or deliberate action. Pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit is an option once you have determined that you have grounds and that it falls within the statute of limitations (two years from the date of victim’s death).
1. The first and most important thing you should do is consult with a personal injury lawyer. Conduct your own research online, or ask for referrals from trusted contacts in order to find an attorney you can trust. Schedule a consultation immediately, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You and your lawyer must work together to build a strong case.
2. Obtain copies of relevant documents. Get a copy of the official police report on the incident. Other documents that may be useful, depending on the nature of the wrongful death, include medical reports, workplace incident reports, photographs of the scene, and bills for hospital/funeral/burial expenses, among others. You should also compile documents about the personal status of the deceased, including tax returns, payslips, etc.
3. Identify who to sue. Sometimes you only need to sue a single person who is responsible for the wrongful death. Other times, you might be able to sue multiple people.
4. File the lawsuit. Your lawyer should take care of the technical and procedural requirements such as providing notice to the individual(s) involved, drafting and filing a complaint in court, and delivering a summons to the defendant(s). As much as possible, make sure you take part in every step of the procedure to stay informed.
Once you’ve set the wheels in motion, a lot also depends on what the defendant chooses to do. But after you read the defendant’s response and get some sense of the evidence during discovery, you might be offered a settlement. Your lawyer will explain your options and try to negotiate as high a figure as possible. In the end, it’s up to you to decide how you want to move forward.