A wrongful death is a death caused deliberately or negligently and without legal justification. While murder is an example of wrongful death, most murderers go to prison and have no resources to pay a civil judgment. Most wrongful death lawsuits involve careless drivers, defective products, hazardous property conditions, medical malpractice, and other negligent individuals or businesses.
The surviving family members of a wrongful death victim are entitled to compensation as determined by state law. A wrongful death lawyer can help families understand which family members can share in the compensation and how the amount will be determined. But picking a wrongful death lawyer is not always easy.
The search for a wrongful death attorney should start with a search for lawyers who are experienced in handling wrongful death cases. A general practice lawyer who dabbles in injury cases and a new graduate from law school might do a fine job, but the odds of obtaining a favorable outcome are usually better when family members retain a lawyer who has demonstrated the ability to handle wrongful death cases.
Experience can be measured by the number of clients represented in wrongful death cases and in results obtained. Don’t be shy about asking the lawyers you interview whether they have handled cases similar to yours and, if so, how many they won or settled favorably.
Experience also includes taking cases to trial. While most wrongful death claims settle, a seasoned trial lawyer will usually obtain a better settlement than an attorney who never takes a case to trial, because insurance companies will know that they are taking a risk if they do not offer a fair settlement.
Talk to people who are familiar with the local community of wrongful death lawyers. Satisfied clients are a good source of information. If you hired a lawyer to make your will or to handle a real estate transaction, that lawyer can recommend wrongful death lawyers who have a good reputation in the legal community.
You can also find endorsements from clients and other attorneys on websites like Avvo.com. Many of those websites rate lawyers, giving you the opportunity to learn whether former clients were satisfied with the representation they received.
Investigating a wrongful death, assembling evidence, preparing for trial, and negotiating a settlement can take months or years. Cases that go to trial may take several years to resolve. Families need to be prepared for a lengthy battle to achieve justice. To help them sustain that battle, they need to be comfortable with the wrongful death lawyer they select.
Interviewing several lawyers and finding one who makes family members feel comfortable is important. Family members should judge the lawyer’s willingness to give honest answers to hard questions, to stand up for justice, and to take their needs into account. Family members should look for a lawyer who listens.
Representation in a wrongful death case should be effective, but it should also be compassionate. Finding a lawyer who has knowledge, skills and experience is critical, but it is also important to find a lawyer who cares. The best wrongful death lawyer for any particular case will be the one family members judge to have all of those qualities.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult burdens. Have questions? Call 1-800-838-6644 or fill out our form to get help from our compassionate staff today.
Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has earned a national reputation for aggressive client advocacy and real results. We are proud to offer 100% free, confidential consultations.