By definition, a wrongful death case is not an injury case, because someone has died. Therefore, it is important to work with lawyers who understand the technicalities involved in representing somebody in a wrongful death case, because even simple procedural details are very specialized when filing a case on behalf of someone who is deceased. There are probate issues, as well as statutory limitations and requirements on who can collect for someone’s death, all of which a Clearwater wrongful death attorney must address when helping someone file a wrongful death claim.
If you have lost a loved one to wrongful death, our experienced lawyers can handle everything from setting up an estate, to pursuing liability charges against the at-fault party by thoroughly investigating the case and freeing up your hands to focus on healing and moving forward.
A wrongful death attorney will usually interview as many family members or witnesses at the scene of the accident as soon as possible. In the case of a car accident, the lawyer will get investigators out to measure the tire marks and take pictures of the area where the incident occurred, because many times the at-fault driver can have a portion of the liability. If the incident occurred at a store, or at an apartment complex, the party responsible for the property may share some of the liability, depending on how the parking lot is set up, or where they have plants or other obstructions.
The investigation does not focus solely on the at-fault driver, but into the accident’s surroundings. It is imperative to interview all witnesses, obtain incident reports, and if possible, talk to the law enforcement officer who compiled the incident report. An attorney needs to send their investigator to the scene to have them check all of the measurements the attorney lined up so they have enough proof to show who exactly is liable and what portion of liability they should hold.
Gathering of Evidence in a Wrongful Death Case
Evidence gathering in a wrongful death case is far more important and requires more diligence than in a personal injury case where the client is not deceased because a lawyer has to do more work upfront. A personal injury lawyer is able to fill the holes in a car accident case with information from their client’s testimony, while a wrongful death attorney needs to go to the site of the incident and recreate events to piece evidence together and develop the case without any client input.
A lawyer needs to use other facts to prove the simple parts of what happened the day of the incident. These can be from witness statements, anyone who saw the accident, the defense investigator’s technical measurements, or an accident reconstructionist, who shows how the accident occurred based on damage to the vehicle. Information can also be gathered from the timing of the light change, which can indicate who is actually at fault, as well as from the police reports, to see who was ticketed in the case and to gather statements from law enforcement. Because of the variety of information that has to be gathered, time is far more crucial in a wrongful death case.
Prima facie is a Latin term used by lawyers that means “on its face.” A prima facie case is something that is evident or obvious. In order to bring a prima facie case, an attorney must be able to show that whatever they are arguing is obvious and evident, and therefore, does not require litigation. In other words, the lawyer is capable of clearly proving that their client was not at fault. If the injuries were caused by someone else, they do not have to litigate those cases in front of a jury. An example of a prima facie case is a car accident where the injured party is complying with the rules of the road and is impacted by a drunk driver who sped through a red light without making any attempt to stop or avoid the collision.
A lawyer can establish a prima facie case of negligence by showing that the person who is at fault had a duty, breached whatever duty they had, and was the actual proximate source of the injuries sustained that led to the wrongful death of the client. If an attorney can present those facts with the preponderance of the evidence, they are able to avoid having to litigate a case because the liabilities become clear.
Lawyers who specialize in this area of law understand the way insurance companies value claims. Lawyers who do this type of work on a regular basis also recognize the matrix that must be provided to the insurance adjuster for their computer program to maximize the value in a particular case.
Role of an Attorney
A wrongful death case starts when the incident causing a wrongful death, such as a car accident, happens. A wrongful death lawyer needs to be involved immediately, so they can talk to the family and find out whether or not there is an estate and ensure that everything is in place to move forward. If there is an estate, the lawyer needs to know who the executor of the estate is going to be, and if there is not an estate, then one needs to be opened. Wrongful death cases often occur during very hard times for the family of the deceased, and there needs to be someone to fill the plaintiff’s and the deceased party’s shoes throughout the lawsuit. Having an attorney handle procedural issues, finances, and the estate provides relief to the family while in mourning and looking to the future, knowing that the attorney can make sure the at-fault party who caused this death is who will be held responsible for it.