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What Are the Steps in a Wrongful Death Suit?

No amount of money can compensate for the emotional scars left by the death of a loved one. However, if the death of your loved one could have been avoided, filing a wrongful death claim can help. It can allow you to tend to your own grief as well as the emotional needs of your family, without needing to worry about medical bills, lost income, and other financial burdens.

If you believe that the death of your loved one was directly or indirectly caused by another person or entity’s carelessness or negligence, we are here to help you begin the process toward healing. Stay with us as we cover what you need to know about pursuing a wrongful death suit to seek a sense of justice and closure.

What Constitutes a Wrongful Death Suit?

A wrongful death lawsuit allows surviving family members to seek justice on behalf of a loved one who passed away due to the intentional or negligent behavior of another. A successful wrongful death suit can never erase the tragedy of what occurred, but it can allow the victim’s loved ones to receive compensation to help with their losses.

Each state’s wrongful death laws vary, but these lawsuits are commonly filed by a representative of the deceased person’s estate, often on behalf of surviving family members. Damages in a wrongful death suit can include loss of support, any medical and funeral expenses, and the loss of consortium.

When Can a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Be Filed?

Wrongful death lawsuits are designed to compensate certain survivors for damages and and losses — both economic and otherwise — associated with the preventable death of a loved one. A wrongful death claim can arise after situations in which a victim who would otherwise have a valid personal injury claim is killed as a result of someone else’s wrongful action. This can occur in a variety of situations, including:

  • Medical malpractice. If a doctor fails to diagnose a condition, or if the doctor is negligent in the level of care provided, and a patient dies as a result, you may be able to recover financial compensation from the doctor’s or hospital’s malpractice insurance policy.
  • Auto accident. If a loved one was killed in a car accident that occurred because of another driver’s negligence, the other motorist’s liability insurance coverage will most likely cover your losses. If the driver who caused the collision that killed your family member was on the job at the time, the driver’s employer may be found liable for the wrongful death. In that case, your family may be able to collect compensation from the company’s insurance policy.
  • Unintentional injuries. If your loved one suffered an injury on another person’s residential or commercial property, your family may be eligible for compensation from a homeowner’s, renter’s, or commercial property owner’s liability policy.

The Four Steps of Wrongful Death Cases

In order to be successful in your wrongful death claim, you’ll need to take these four steps:

  1. Contact a lawyer. A wrongful death case can be extremely complicated. You should consult with a knowledgeable attorney who has specific experience with these types of cases. They will be able to guide you through each step of the process, from making sure a personal representative is appointed and a timely claim is brought, to identifying the responsible parties and claiming the proper damages. 
  2. Work with the attorney to provide documentation needed. In this step, you’ll need to obtain the death certificate from the Department of Health, as well as any paperwork that may be connected to the events that led to the wrongful death, including medical bills.
  3. Communicate with the defendant. Once the lawsuit is filed, many defendants will try to settle a case before it can go to trial. If a settlement offer is fair to the survivors, the wrongful death claim might end here. However, for many insurance companies and other parties, the negotiation process is an attempt to devalue your claim, so the suit will continue on to the trial stage, where it will be decided upon in court. 
  4. Recover wrongful death damages. In the final step of the process, you should get paid what you deserve and be able to carry on grieving without added financial strain. Compensation may include:
    • Funeral bills
    • Medical bills
    • Loss of earnings of the decedent from the date of the injury until the date of death
    • Loss of net income (the money the victim would have earned and saved if they had lived)
    • Loss of support and services (financial support and household tasks the deceased would have provided)
    • Loss of companionship and pain and suffering of the survivors

Being successful in a wrongful death lawsuit requires strong and convincing evidence that may involve the testimony of expert witnesses. A wrongful death lawyer will be able to help you build your lawsuit around the facts and evidence for the strongest case possible.

Our Wrongful Death Attorneys Work to Help Austin Families

If someone you love died because of the negligence of another, you may have a wrongful death claim under the law — and you don’t have to go through the process alone. At FVF, our experienced attorneys have handled hundreds of wrongful death cases over the years.

We handle all cases with the utmost compassion and are here to help ease the burden as you work through this extremely difficult time. We invite you to comunique con nosotros for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case. Together, we can discuss your options and help you decide how best to move forward.