When you lose a loved one, the grief can be tremendously intense, even more so when someone else’s misconduct or carelessness causes the death. In such situations, the person’s family who lost their lives can seek compensation by pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you may wonder what this entails and if you will be required to go to court.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When a civil lawsuit is filed by the surviving family members of someone who died because of the negligence or intentionally harmful behavior of someone else, it is referred to as a wrongful death lawsuit. The purpose of such a lawsuit is to seek compensation for the damages suffered by the deceased’s relatives due to their death.
A variety of situations may end in a wrongful death lawsuit. Some of these are listed below:
- Car accidents
- Medical malpractice
- On-the-job accidents
- Assault or murder
- Defective products
To file a successful wrongful death lawsuit, the survivors must prove that the defendant’s actions or lack of necessary measures directly caused the death of their loved one.
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Must You Go to Court for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The answer is yes and no.
Wrongful death lawsuits are often negotiated and settled before they make it to the courtroom. A settlement, when the plaintiff and defendant agree on how to resolve the case without going to court, allows all parties to find an acceptable resolution without having to fight it out before a judge. You will not have to appear in court when filing a wrongful death lawsuit in these cases.
However, sometimes negotiations fail, and an agreement cannot be reached that satisfies both parties or if the defendant claims they are not responsible for the death, then the lawsuit will end up going to trial. Civil lawsuits are typically heard in court when negotiations are unsuccessful.
If the case goes to trial, the defendant and the plaintiff will have a chance to present their evidence and their arguments to the court. The judge or jury will decide if the defendant is liable for the death. If they decide the defendant was responsible, then they will decide the damages that should be awarded to the survivors.
Settling Out of Court
For many reasons, wrongful death lawsuits can be settled outside of court. This helps to dodge the time and expense of a trial. Trials offer no guarantees that the plaintiff will be successful, and they can be costly and time-consuming.
A settlement can be of benefit since negotiations allow more control than a trial. In a settlement, parties decide together on the terms of the settlement. If a wrongful death lawsuit goes to trial, the judge or the jury decides how the case is resolved.
Trials are, by their very nature, emotionally exhausting. By coming to a settlement agreement, the surviving family members are spared the challenging difficulties of a trial.
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What Happens During a Wrongful Death Case?
When deciding upon filing a wrongful death lawsuit, it is important to understand the process that you are facing if it goes to trial. Listed below is what you can typically expect to happen:
- The process begins when you file a lawsuit. The survivor details their allegations against the defendant and outlines the damages they are seeking.
- Next comes the discovery phase, wherein each party will exchange the information and evidence they are in possession of that is related to the case. Included in these are witness statements, expert testimony, photos, videos, and other evidence each party has gathered.
- Pre-trial motions are made before the trial actually begins. Both parties can file motions such as asking the court to dismiss the case or to exclude evidence from being presented in court.
- When a wrongful death case is slated to go before a jury, jury selection must occur. Choosing a jury involves each side questioning potential jury members to see if they show biases.
- After jurors are chosen, opening statements are made. These statements are a chance for each side to tell their side of the story and give jurors a preview of what they will be showing them to convince them that their side of the story is the correct one.
- Presenting the evidence is the next step in a trial. The defendant and plaintiff will present any evidence that they feel will support their argument, and each side has a chance to dispute or punch holes in the evidence to prove that it does not prove the other’s case.
- Next comes the closing arguments. Everything that could prove either side has been presented, and the attorneys take this time to recap their case and have a final chance to speak to the jury in an effort to convince them to take their side.
After the closing arguments, the jury takes time to deliberate and concludes by reaching a verdict. If the defendant is found liable for the wrongful death, the next step is deciding how much the plaintiff will be awarded in damages.
Either party has the right to appeal a decision they feel is unfair. This appeal is then taken to a higher court.
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Wrongful Death Lawsuits May End Up in Court
While a wrongful death lawsuit may involve going to court, it is possible that court can be avoided. If both parties agree that the death was caused by negligence or deliberate action, they can negotiate a settlement. If an agreement cannot be made, the court can decide it.
If you have unjustly suffered the loss of a loved one and are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you should contact BDIW Law. Our experienced attorneys will ensure that your rights are protected and that you know your legal options.
We understand that a wrongful death lawsuit can be emotionally charged and taxing for your entire family. Still, our team will offer you the support you need while pursuing the compensation you deserve.
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