Anthony Ranken & Associates Aug. 17, 2020

Ultimately if a case goes to trial a jury will determine separately how much each person, and survivor, should get based on their relationship with the deceased and how much they depended on that person for financial or emotional needs. If a case settles without a trial, then generally the family members can agree on a fair distribution of the settlement proceeds, or they can agree to have that arbitrated by an arbitrator who is usually a retired judge. That judge will make that determination and listen to the statements from everyone and review the case and make that resolution.

Should Multiple Heirs Hire Separate Attorneys for A Wrongful Death Claim?

It is best if the survivors can all agree to hire the same attorney, because it is important to have a case managed by someone who is aware of and in charge of all aspects. If there are any disputes about who gets what share, those can easily be resolved by mediation or arbitration, and it is not an obstacle going forward with the same attorney.

Are Punitive Damages Ever Recoverable in A Wrongful Death Claim?

Yes, punitive damages can be recovered in any type of injury or death case if we can show that the defendant, that is the party at fault, acted either intentionally or recklessly. In other words, it has to be more than just garden variety negligence like running a stop sign. If we can show that the jury will be asked to award something beyond the compensation due to the plaintiff for their injuries. They will be asked to award an additional amount to punish the defendant. That is why they are called punitive damages. Essentially it sets an example and teaches a lesson that intentional wrongdoing such as an assault or grossly negligent conduct such as driving drunk will not be tolerated by our society.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?

The statute of limitations for a wrongful death is generally two years from the date that the death occurred, but there are a few exemptions. For example, if the person who was killed is not yet eighteen, then the statute can be pulled until they reach the age of eighteen, but it is always best to consult an attorney early on. It is a mistake to wait until near the end of those two years because that can make the case a lot harder to prove.

What Is the Typical Timeline of A Wrongful Death Claim’s Resolution?

If a resolution can be negotiated with the insurance company that can happen in a matter of months if no medical treatment is needed anymore. If there are disputes as to liability or economic damages then it will probably require that experts be hired and prepare reports. That will add some time to the process. If the case cannot be resolved through direct negotiations then a lawsuit will be filed. Generally it will take at least eight months to a year after filing of the lawsuit before one really has a chance at a meaningful settlement. Once a lawsuit is filed there will be depositions taken and discovery which enables both parties to fully explore all aspects of the case and get a better understanding of how things will go at trial and how much the case might be worth.

Settlements are always based on what the two parties expect will happen at trial, and the more preparation is done and the closer you get to trial, the more depositions happen. In a lot of big cases the defendant does not want to settle right away without spending some time and money on developing the case and taking the depositions of the plaintiffs and the witnesses, which includes doctors and experts. That means that the case can take a year or two before it will be resolved.

What Sets Your Firm Apart in Handling Wrongful Death Cases?

I have handled a number of wrongful death cases over the course of my career. My firm has the staff and resources to give these cases the attention and funding that they deserve in terms of hiring expert witnesses and thoroughly investigating cases. I have the experience in how to prove damages and get the maximum possible award for the family members of someone who has lost their life in an accident.

For more information on Division of Damages among Heirs, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling today.