That phrase, “wrongful death,” is a bit of legal lingo that we’ve heard many times on detective shows and news reports. But its meaning isn’t necessarily obvious.
A wrongful death is a fatal accident in which no criminal activity is involved. Wrongful death is a civil offense that most often results from some kind of negligence or recklessness.
Typical wrongful death cases include, but are not limited to, scenarios such as:
• A driver, distracted by a cell phone or something outside of the window, momentarily stops paying attention to the road and drives into another vehicle. If the driver of the second vehicle is killed in the accident, the distracted driver may be found guilty of causing a wrongful death.
• Despite a number of complaints about a dangerous intersection, a state or county highway department fails to redesign the interchange in order to make it safer. If someone is killed at that intersection as a result of those safety defects, the highway department – and, by extension, the city or the county – may be found guilty of causing a wrongful death.
• During the course of a routine procedure, a surgeon makes an error and fails to realize it. That surgical error turns out to be the cause of a fatal infection in the patient. That surgeon may be found guilty of medical malpractice that resulted in a wrongful death.
• An auto manufacturer fails to perform all of the necessary safety tests on its vehicles’ components. If one of those components fails while the car is in motion, and the failure of that component causes the death of the driver and/or one or more passengers, other motorists, or pedestrians, the auto maker may be found guilty of causing a wrongful death.
In these and other wrongful death scenarios, the people who caused the wrongful deaths had no intention to harm anyone. The deaths were accidental, but could have been prevented. That’s exactly what makes them wrongful.
The victim’s surviving family members are the plaintiffs in most wrongful death cases. If the plaintiffs win a wrongful death case, they may be awarded two types of damages:
• Compensatory damages, which are meant to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and the loss of the companionship of the deceased • Punitive damages, which are awarded as a means to punish the responsible party.
If a loved one has been killed in an accident involving
• an automotive defect
• a workplace mishap
• unsafe road conditions
• a medical error
you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death lawsuits seek justice and fair compensation for accidental deaths.
Because wrongful death lawsuits involve the passing of someone we love, they can be emotionally and mentally devastating. When you’re grieving, it can be incredibly difficult to focus on “busywork” like filing a lawsuit.
In many case, though, filing a wrongful death lawsuit is the best way to find closure in a trying situation. If and when you decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the attorneys at Adams Fietz are here to help you.
We will deal with the “busywork.” We will handle all the legal procedures. We will fight for justice and fair compensation for you and your family.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be emotionally difficult, but they don’t have to be confusing. If you think you may wish to file a wrongful death suit, read our step-by-step guide below to get a sense of what you can expect.
Before a wrongful death suit ever goes to trial, several events must take place, usually in the order listed below.
The best piece of advice we can give you is to start this process as soon as possible after the accident occurs. The sooner you initiate this process, the better your attorneys will be able to assist you.
• Establishment of the deceased’s estate
If your loved one had not established his or her estate before death, you will want to get the estate in order as soon as possible. To do this, visit the county courthouse in the county in which the deceased resided. You may need the assistance of an estate attorney at this stage. Adams Fietz can help you with this.
• Hire a personal injury or wrongful death attorney
The attorneys at Adams Fietz have more than 20 years’ shared experience handling personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. We will be your advocates every step of the way.
• Investigation of the accident
Your attorney will conduct this stage of the process, and will consult with you about its development. Make sure to discuss with your attorney the payment plan for this process.
• Inform the party or parties who are allegedly responsible for the accident
Again, your attorney will perform this important service for you, and will also work with your insurance providers to make sure everyone has all the relevant information.
• Discussions and negotiations with the defendants
Often, a lawsuit can be avoided by engaging in pretrial negotiations with the party or parties who may be responsible for the accident that caused the death of your loved one. Once again, your attorney will lead the way in this process, and will consult with you about how you may contribute. If both parties agree to a pretrial settlement, no formal lawsuit will be filed, your expenses will be lower, and you will receive your settlement sooner than if you pursue it via a formal lawsuit.
If the parties are unable to agree to the terms of a settlement, your and your lawyer may decide to file a formal lawsuit. If you decide to file a lawsuit, here are the steps you’ll go through.
• Filing a complaint or a writ of summons
Your lawyer will prepare these documents – sometimes called “pleadings” – which are necessary for the official filing of a lawsuit.
• Response to the complaint or writ of summons
The defendant is obligated to respond to the pleadings so that the case may proceed to a courtroom.
The discovery phase of the litigation process itself involves several steps.
Each side submits written questions to the other. If asked a question during this phase, you must either reply to it or object to it.
• Request for documents
You may ask the defendants to produce certain documents that are relevant to the case. The defendants may ask you for documents, too.
Anyone whose knowledge may be relevant to the case may be required to give a deposition, which is the legal term for a formal interview. Depositions are given under oath.
Several important steps take place during the pre-trial phase of litigation.
Both parties inform the judge of their perspectives on the case.
• Jury selection
A jury of your peers will be selected and agreed upon by both parties’ attorneys.
The judge will likely meet with both parties’ attorneys to discuss the case. Sometimes, settlements are reached in the conference phase, in which case the lawsuit will not proceed to a formal trial.
This is the part you know from Law & Order: the courtroom trial. In this stage, both parties’ attorneys present the case to the judge and jury. (Sometimes, the case may be presented to an arbitrator – usually a retired judge or lawyer.) After all arguments are heard, a verdict is rendered, and orders for any settlement is delivered.
If you or the defendant wish to challenge the verdict in the trial, you may submit an appeal. An appeal takes the case to a higher-level court in hopes of reversing or changing the verdict. Appeals can go all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
At any time during the pre-litigation and litigation stages of your lawsuit, you and your attorney may find it advantageous to pursue a settlement instead of a formal verdict. This options remains open to you at all times during the lawsuit process. You should make it a point to discuss the subject of settlement with your attorney. Settlements can often be preferable to formal trials.
The most important thing you can do if you file a wrongful death lawsuit is to maintain open communication with an attorney you trust. Ask your attorney questions. Tell your attorney everything he or she needs to know about the accident. The better the communication between you and your attorney, the better you will work as a team.
If a loved one has died in an accident, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you do, Adams Fietz is here to help you.
Call us today to arrange for your free consultation.
"Jeremy has helped many Sonoma County residents win their wrongful death lawsuits and has recovered over $11,000,000.00"
For the victim’s family, having to endure a trial right after the loss of a loved one can be incredibly difficult.
For the defendant, it is a shocking to be accused of being responsible for the accidental death of another person.
Even members of juries find wrongful death cases especially challenging, since they’re often so tragic and preventable.
That’s why, if a loved one has been killed in a tragic accident, you need a wrongful death attorney who understands every side of the story.
You need the expert wrongful death attorneys of Adams Fietz.
With more than 20 years’ experience practicing law in Sonoma County, the attorneys of Adams Fietz know how to handle every aspect of your wrongful death case.
We will find the most reliable witnesses. We will conduct a deep and thorough investigation into the accident. We will get to know you and your family so we understand your loss, and your needs.
Our team of professionals are dedicated to understanding your case and securing for you the best possible outcome.
You pay NOTHING unless we win your case. Our interests are aligned with yours.
It’s our business and our great satisfaction to help everyday citizens stand up for their rights.
At Adams Fietz, we’re proud to deliver justice to our clients. We work tirelessly to fight for you, your family, your health, and for the fair compensation you deserve.
Our headquarters is in Santa Rosa, in beautiful Sonoma County, California, and we’re licensed to practice law in California; Washington, D.C.; Alaska; and British Columbia, Canada.
Call us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help you.
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