No one wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Not only is losing a loved one traumatic but dealing with legal matters can add extra stress to an already difficult situation. However, knowing what to expect can help lessen your anxiety.
The following guide provides a brief overview of the general timeline and series of events that will likely occur.
Statute of Limitations
Prior to filing a wrongful death claim, it’s important to make sure you’re within the state’s statute of limitations. In Florida, you generally must file your claim within two years from the date of the person’s death. However, some circumstances may alter this timeline.
While it’s best to contact an attorney as soon as possible, if you didn’t do so right away, don’t assume it’s too late. Speaking with a wrongful death attorney is the best way to know for sure whether you’re still within the required timeframe.
Filing the Lawsuit
Before you can file a wrongful death claim in Florida, you’ll need to open a probate estate. While some states allow family members to sue for wrongful death, the state of Florida requires this to be done by the executor of the estate. Once the lawsuit has been filed in court, the defendants will be notified. In many cases, they will have 30 days to respond.
During the discovery period, both sides will spend time gathering evidence. This may include conducting interviews and formal depositions as well as exchanging relevant documents like doctor’s reports, medical bills, and eyewitness reports.
Many wrongful death claims never go to trial. Once your attorney has gathered the evidence needed to support your case, the next step is to attempt to reach a settlement with the other party.
Since settling is often faster and less expensive than going to court, your attorney may recommend that you accept a fair offer from the other party. However, it’s critical not to sign any type of settlement agreement without consulting with your lawyer first. Doing so can hurt your chances of receiving fair compensation.
If you’re not able to come to an agreement with the other party, then your case may go to trial. This often occurs when it’s not completely clear who is liable and more effort is needed to determine which party was at fault.
During the trial, a jury will hear evidence from both sides and determine whether a wrongful death occurred. With the help of a judge, they will also calculate any damages owed to the affected party.
If the jury doesn’t rule in your favor, you may be able to appeal. However, it’s important to note that in most cases, the appellate court will side with the original jury. Unless new evidence has come to light after the case was settled, you may not get the results you’re hoping for. Your attorney will be able to provide a recommendation regarding whether appealing the decision is worth your time.
Contact Gallagher & Hagopian for a Free Case Evaluation
If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. While nothing can make up for your loss, filing a wrongful death lawsuit can allow you to hold the negligent party responsible. The funds you may receive can also help you and your family get back on your feet.
To learn more about whether you may have grounds for filing a suit, contact us to schedule a free case evaluation.