Tips from a Wrongful Death Attorney: Steps to Take When Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If you need help filing for wrongful death, consider letting a wrongful death attorney help.

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is never fun, but a reliable wrongful death attorney can help make the process easier and less confusing. There are several phases in filing a wrongful death lawsuit: pre-litigation, litigation, and settlement discussions.

Pre-litigation Phase

During pre-litigation, the decedent’s personal representative must complete several important tasks and make decisions that will affect the wrongful death lawsuit. These include:

  1. Establish the estate. This must be done at the courthouse in the county where the decedent lived.
  2. Retain a wrongful death attorney. A well-respected and experienced wrongful death attorney can help navigate the more confusing legal landscape of wrongful death suits.
  3. Investigate the decedent’s death. Your wrongful death attorney can commence a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of your loved one.

It’s important to retain a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after your loved one’s death. This ensures that the most reliable evidence is in the investigation. Once your wrongful death attorney has gathered sufficient evidence, he or she should notify the defending parties of your intention to file a wrongful death suit. It’s common to negotiate at this stage. If an estate can be fully compensated without filing a formal lawsuit, you can avoid the high cost of litigation.

Litigation Phase

Oftentimes, the parties are unable to negotiate a settlement in pre-litigation. Litigation begins when the decedent’s family or representative files a lawsuit against one or more parties and includes the following steps:

  1. Filing of the wrongful death lawsuit. Your wrongful death attorney will file a complaint or writ of summons to commence the litigation.
  2. Response to writ of summons. This gives the defendant an opportunity to respond to the filing of the lawsuit.
  3. Discovery. Written questionnaires called “interrogatories” are common during discovery and include questions that each side may ask and that the other party may respond or object to.

It’s also common during litigation to file requests for production of documents that are relevant to the case; and it’s common to engage in depositions under oath.
During the pre-trial phase of litigation, both parties must educate the judge about the case. A jury will be selected, and the judge will often schedule at least one conference with the attorneys. Once the trial or arbitration begins, the case is presented to a judge and jury or an arbitrator. A final verdict or award is rendered, and the case is usually concluded at this point. If one or all of the involved parties wishes to appeal or challenge the verdict, the case will enter into the post-trial phase.

Settlement Discussions

Discussions intended to attempt to resolve a lawsuit can occur at any point in a lawsuit. Here’s what they look like during the phases we discussed:
Pre-litigation phase: Settlement discussions often occur after each side has had an opportunity to investigate the decedent’s death but before a wrongful death complaint or writ of summons is filed.
Litigation phase: During litigation, settlement discussions may occur after depositions are completed.
Pre-Trial phase: Often, the judge will encourage settlement negotiations prior to a trial beginning. This is known as “settling on the courthouse steps.”
Trial phase: Many times, cases are settled during the trial of a case or after the evidence has all been presented and the jury is deliberating over the verdict.

Find the Right Wrongful Death Attorney at Tolbert Beadle

The right wrongful death attorney can help make a painful process a bit more bearable. Tolbert Beadle can help during the difficult time of filing a wrongful death suit. Contact us today for more information or for representation.