A wrongful death lawsuit is legal action taken by eligible surviving family members after an immediate family member dies. Pursuing a successful wrongful death claim relies on your wrongful death lawyer proving that the loved one’s death was the result of another party’s negligence or malicious conduct.
The average time for wrongful death settlement payouts depends on several factors. Quick settlements are rare because the defendant may deny responsibility, or the insurance company may refuse to pay the requested settlement amount. It also takes time to gather and review evidence. Other factors, such as the case type, when you initiate legal action, and your relationship with the decedent, may also affect the time it takes to settle wrongful death claims.
When the Defendant Rejects Responsibility for Your Loved One’s Death
Some defendants delay resolving a wrongful death lawsuit because they deny responsibility. This can be a factor if the defendant’s facing criminal charges, because the defendant may hope to avoid responsibility based on legal technicalities or other factors. Consequently, their attorney may advise them to deny responsibility in civil proceedings until their criminal trial is over.
A guilty verdict in a criminal case may make it easier for you to prove your wrongful death suit. However, even if the defendant wasn’t convicted in their criminal trial, it’s possible to win your civil case.
You can still proceed with your civil lawsuit while criminal proceedings are underway. In most cases, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death. Under Colorado state laws, victims have four years to file if their loved one dies in a hit-and-run accident. The deadline for filing such cases is four years from the accident’s date.
When the Insurance Company Refuses to Pay the Amount of Money Your Attorney Requests
In most cases, insurance companies pay wrongful death settlements on behalf of the at-fault party. Your wrongful death attorney will attempt to negotiate settlement terms. Still, if the insurance company denies the requested amount, you may have to go to trial to resolve your case, extending the time required to settle your lawsuit.
Factors Considered in Settlement Amounts
Settlement amounts include economic damages, such as medical bills and loss of income, and non-economic damages, which include compensation for pain and suffering. It’s also possible to receive punitive damages if the defendant acted with total disregard for the safety of the decedent or others.
Insurance companies may dispute the requested amounts. It’s also possible for the decedent’s personal representative to file a survival action suit against the defendant. The insurance company may refuse to agree to a settlement if they believe a court’s judgment will result in lower payments.
The at-fault party’s insurance company may refuse to pay a settlement if there are multiple defendants. They may try to mitigate their client’s responsibility at trial to reduce their financial burden.
Examination of Evidence
When you hire a wrongful death attorney, your attorney’s law firm conducts an investigation. They must gather and review evidence, such as the following:
- Accident Reports
- Accident Scene Photos
- Cell Phone Data
- Dash Cam Footage
- Driving Records
- Medical Reports
- Personnel Records
- Security Camera Footage
- Toxicology Reports
- Witness Statements
Gathering and reviewing evidence should occur before anyone agrees to settle a wrongful death. The evidence could demonstrate reckless disregard for human life, enabling the victim’s family to seek punitive damages. In some cases, it isn’t possible to accurately assess reasonable damages without a thorough review of the evidence.
You could file a wrongful death suit if medical malpractice caused your loved one’s death. You can also pursue a medical malpractice case; however, many states limit the payout amounts for medical malpractice suits. You may receive more money from your wrongful death suit, but pursuing two lawsuits may extend the time required to resolve your claims.
You may not be able to take immediate legal action following the death of your loved one. For example, if you were injured in the same accident, you may not be ready to deal with legal matters immediately.
It’s also natural to feel overwhelmed by grief. The book “Unthinkable” by Kyle Bachus can help you process your situation and understand your options after a loved one’s death. This, in turn, can help you avoid further delays if you’re unaware of your options and the practical matters injury lawyers can help you resolve.
Your relationship with the decedent may also affect your wrongful death lawsuit’s timeline. For example, in some states, children may have to wait a year before filing if their parent’s spouse is alive. The decedent’s parents can file a lawsuit if the decedent has no surviving spouse or heirs.
Suppose a married couple was in an accident. One partner died immediately, while the other was on life support. The decedent’s parents technically can’t pursue a wrongful death suit as long as the spouse is alive. However, they can file a suit later if the spouse dies from their injuries.
What should I expect if I file a wrongful death claim?
Your legal team will handle the investigation and lead negotiations with the at-fault party. This can be a time-consuming process because of the number of people involved in wrongful death lawsuits. It can take weeks or months to gather information and hold settlement conferences.
Contact our wrongful death attorneys today to receive a free consultation from a wrongful death attorney with Elite Litigation Group. Our attorneys bring years of experience to every case. We understand the trauma and pain you’re coping with and will strive to get you the compensation you deserve for your loved one’s death.
Punitive Damages. (2022).
Wrongful Death. (2022).