What to Expect When Pursuing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Henderson Law also represents Petaluma wrongful death lawyerAfter the death of a loved one, the surviving family members can face financial struggles coupled with their crippling grief. It is especially traumatic when the death occurs unexpectedly due to another person’s wrongful or negligent act. California allows certain surviving family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages stemming from their loved one’s death. The recovery from a wrongful death lawsuit can help the victim’s family members pay their financial obligations and make up for the income the decedent can no longer provide.

The burden of filing your wrongful death lawsuit and processing the loss of your loved one is more than some people can bear. Let a wrongful death lawyer at Henderson Law worry about the details of your lawsuit so you can grieve.

How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

When a wrongful or negligent act results in someone’s death, California allows certain family members to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their loved one to recover monetary damages. Under California law, the surviving family members that qualify to file a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Spouses,
  • Domestic partners,
  • Children, and
  • In some cases, grandchildren.

An attorney will prepare the wrongful death complaint to demonstrate how the defendant’s negligent or wrongful conduct caused your loved one’s death. Additionally, they will collect evidence to demonstrate the extent of the damages you suffered as a result of your loved one’s death.

Even seasoned attorneys can struggle to prove how another person’s conduct caused your loved one’s injury. That is where our significant experience comes in handy. We know what it takes to show that your loved one’s death would not have occurred without the actions of the defendant.

What Happens After Filing a Lawsuit?

The vast majority of wrongful death lawsuits end in a settlement instead of going to trial. Even before filing a wrongful death lawsuit, it is common to negotiate with the opposing party’s attorney to try to reach a settlement agreement. Depending on the circumstances of the wrongful death, the opposing party’s insurance company may contribute to the settlement funds up to the policy holder’s coverage limits. Insurance companies sometimes try to settle cases as soon as possible to minimize attorney’s fees and exposure. Your attorney should compile the total value of your losses to ensure the opposing party does not offer you less than you deserve. The losses you can recover in a wrongful death claim include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses;
  • Loss of the deceased’s love, companionship, comfort, assistance, affection, society, care, protection, and moral support;
  • Lost wages of the deceased;
  • Medical expenses incurred before the deceased passed away;
  • Loss of training and guidance of the deceased; and
  • Loss of benefits or gifts that the claimant would have expected to receive from the deceased.

A wrongful death lawyer will negotiate with insurance providers on your behalf and ensure any settlement offer fully compensates you for your losses.

How Long Do I Have to Start the Wrongful Death Claim Process?

The statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits imposes a time period during which you must file your claim. In California, if you do not file your lawsuit within two years of your loved one’s death, you may lose your right to file the claim entirely. 

The statutory period begins when your loved one dies. Thus, if your loved one suffered fatal injuries in a motorcycle accident and succumbed to them two days later, your two-year time limit starts on the date of their death, not the date of the accident. There is a limited exception to the two-year time period if the surviving family members could not have reasonably known about their loved one’s death. In this scenario, the two-year period begins when the family reasonably should have known about the death.

Although you must file the wrongful death claim before the two-year period expires, the lawsuit does not need to finish before the statute of limitations ends.

How Long Does It Take to Recover a Wrongful Death Settlement?

There is no concrete way to determine how long it will take to secure a wrongful death settlement or judgment. In some cases, negotiations with the opposing party go smoothly and result in a settlement agreement relatively quickly after your loved one’s death.

If your wrongful death claim proceeds to trial, it can take much longer to recover any compensation for your loved one’s death. Civil court proceedings can often drag on for months and even years, depending on the parties’ willingness to cooperate and preparedness to move forward. 

How Can a Wrongful Death Lawyer Add Value to My Case?

Some people may consider filing a wrongful death claim without an attorney. Although you may save money on attorney’s fees, you can often recover a larger wrongful death settlement when you have a qualified attorney representing your case.

A wrongful death attorney can assist you by:

  • Obtaining the accident report related to your loved one’s death,
  • Compiling the value of your losses,
  • Negotiating with the opposing party on your behalf, and
  • Preparing your case to go to trial, if necessary.

Most people who file a wrongful death case have never done so before. An experienced attorney can walk you through each step of the process and make sure you know what to expect along the way.

Contact Henderson Law to Discuss Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit

We know a wrongful death settlement cannot bring your loved one back. However, the settlement can compensate you for some of the financial losses resulting from their death.

Michael Henderson, our founding attorney, has more than twenty-five years of experience helping surviving loved ones recover compensation for their loved one’s death. Michael is not afraid to take wrongful death cases to trial and is considered one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers Association.

Our team has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. Contact our office today so we can put our resources and expertise to work for you.