Do you know when your life will end? Would you even want to? One of life’s greatest mysteries is the exact time and day of a person’s birth and death. Whatever the catalyst is for these events, no one has deciphered it yet. These are situations wrongful death attorneys understand very well.
When life ends without warning, especially when the person is otherwise unhealthy, you may not know what your options are right away. These are moments when you need professionals to help lead you through the path to healing. Depending on the situation, one of these individuals might be a wrongful death attorney.
If you’ve determined that you do need the help of this type of expert, where do you start to learn more about them? What questions should you ask during the initial interview? Allow me to share some tips that might clear the fog of this moment and give you more clarity on how to start the conversation.
1. What is Their Legal Specialty?
The location of a person’s passing determines what type of attorney you need to hire. For example, if a person passed away in prison or a similar type of confinement, you’d probably want to work with a civil rights attorney.
But, if the person passed away in a hospital, you’d likely hire a malpractice attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases and knows more about them.
Each of these providers have different protocols on lawsuits and what procedures attorneys should use. It’s important that you become familiar with their level of expertise, so you relax as the case moves forward.
2. What Does Their Success Record Look Like?
After learning what their specialty is, you’ll want to ask them what their experience level is. What does their success record show with statistics? How long have they been practicing and what type of clients do they normally work with?
Statistics are particularly important to attorneys, especially those in the wrongful death arena. As a client, you have the right to ask how often they win their cases, and what they believe the determining factors to be when they lose.
If you want to be involved with the case, ask them what your role should be and how you can assist without getting in the way. Can you gather documentation? Can you provide them with records of phone calls, emails or other contact trails?
This help may increase the odds in your favor and help set up the foundation of your case.
3. How and When Do They Get Paid?
The pay schedule for cases differs based on the type of case it is. In some cases, there is a fee to pay up front. In others, clients pay the contingency fee only after they win the case. This line item will be in your contract, so you’ll know about it ahead of time.
Cases which need an up-front fee might be worth shopping around if you have more than one attorney to choose from. See who offers the best percentage rate and match that up with their case winning statistics. This research takes time but also ensures you walk away with the most financial benefit later.
4. How Does the Case Begin?
The first step in this type of litigation is to notify the defendants through a “service of process“. An agent of the court is assigned to deliver the documents and certify the individual has been served. Once these papers have been delivered according to legal standards, the time clock begins counting down for them to respond.
Depending on the type of case, the law might also need a public notification. This could be placed in the local newspaper or posted in public sites where information is easily seen. Each state has varying legal requirements, and your attorney should be well versed in them all.
5. Who Will They be Interviewing?
The depositions and interviews which go with a case like this make up the bulk of witness information. These are then presented in court, along with live witness testimony.
For some witnesses, the attorney may have to pay a fee to have them in court. Keep in mind these fees will need to come out of the winning part of the case. Don’t be surprised when the attorney tells you doctors or presiding officials need a certain amount of compensation for their time in court. Ask them if they have the funds to pay these individuals on time before the case is completed.
Find out what the timetable is for these interviews to take place and when you can expect a response. Wrongful death suits often include expert testimony from noted professionals in the field who have dealt with a variety of cases.
6. Do They Believe They Can Win?
When you work with a professional, you should expect honest answers to your questions. Part of the interview process needs to include the question of whether they believe they can win your case. If they don’t foresee a successful future, why put yourself and your loved ones through the hassle?
Certainly, there will be more difficult cases than others, but there are measures to determine the viability of a lawsuit before it begins. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but it does mean you’re more informed of the potential outcome.
7. How Will They Help You Prepare?
In the unfortunate cases where the suit involves the death of a child, a parent or guardian may have to testify. These testimonies are extremely difficult for the participant and preparations need to be made.
To help the individual testify effectively and maintain composure, the attorney should share a list of practice questions with them. These are the most likely questions that will come from the opposing side as they are testifying in court.
The practice sessions usually involve a semi-court setting with an individual who recreates the attitude of the opposing counsel.
8. What is the Deadline for Filing a Lawsuit?
While every state has their own laws, the typical deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years. Your attorney will tell you for sure depending on where you live, but if you think a lawsuit is necessary, it’s best to start right away.
Unfortunately, many people wait and think that companies will do the right thing without legal pursuit. The only way to ensure you achieve justice is to protect yourself legally with an attorney as soon as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of running out of time to get what you and your loved ones deserve.
9. What Relationship is Necessary to File Suit?
Your familial relationship sometimes determines whether you’re allowed to file certain types of lawsuits. Today’s relationships have many variants, so it’s more of a customized question depending on who is visiting the attorney.
It’s necessary to show legal, familial relationship before a lawsuit like this can move forward. If not, then the court doesn’t let a random individual benefit from a wrongful death lawsuit.
10. Do They Have Time to Manage Your Case?
It’s important to discuss the time required for a case like this, so you know how many other cases are using your attorney’s time. You need this information so you know whether they’ll be able to give your case the attention it deserves.
This discussion lets you know if they only time for a passing glance or time to delve in and do the research that ensures a successful completion. Now is also the best time to find out what their goals are for this case. It will direct all your conversations and keep you on track as you work together.
11. How much is my Case Worth?
Each case has a different value based on the victim, the pain and suffering and the loss of those left behind. For this reason, there is a pay scale that is generally applied to this type of case.
It might be hard to understand but this is how the court and juries determine what cases are worth for settlement values. If you want to find out the general value of your case from the start, ask your attorney to look over the details and give you a professional estimate.
Of course, this value may increase or decrease depending on the contribution of the expert witness testimony. Keep that in mind as the figure changes throughout the case progression.
12. Is My Case Value Affected by my Personal Emotional Loss?
Nothing is going to replace the loved one you lost, especially when they left too early and so unexpectedly. There is, however, a financial value placed on events and times you will never get to experience again.
There is a financial value for the lack of enjoyment you have when participating in activities you used to do. These are details that are evaluated and considered when the judge or jury offers a settlement amount for the case.
If the case doesn’t make it that far, the opposite side will consider this as a factor when they make a settlement offer. Either way, this is an important detail of the case you should discuss with your attorney.
Final Thoughts on Wrongful Death Attorneys
In summary, there are professionals who understand the grief and loss a family goes through when someone passes away unexpectedly. Contact them today to see when a consultation is available and talk to them about your possible case.
Experts, such as wrongful death attorneys, look forward to helping you through this difficult time and want to be sure you get the justice you deserve.