When you've lost a loved one due to wrongful death, you're already suffering. So litigation is probably the last thing on your mind. Getting through the mourning process is difficult, but you want to seek justice for your dearly departed – and for your family.
The last thing you need is a wrongful death lawyer who's too busy or indifferent to walk you through the process. After all, you're not a lawyer! You need someone to fight tenaciously for the justice you deserve while helping you navigate the complex web of wrongful death litigation and the mourning process. Here are a few things you should know about wrongful death claims – things that many wrongful death attorneys don't tell you.
- The process is long and sometimes very frustrating.
Wrongful death claims are often very drawn-out. Each type of wrongful death case has its own statute of limitations (usually around 2 years), but the process of litigation frequently takes longer.
In a wrongful death case, the defendant (the manufacturer in a product liability claim, or the doctor in a medical malpractice suit) is actively fighting and disputing your case. Not only does this process re-open the emotional wounds of losing your loved one, it also adds an element of bitterness between the wronged and wrongdoer.
Because of the coordination between plaintiff and defendant, scheduling of court dates, investigation of the case and even the courtroom discovery process, wrongful death cases tend to take quite a long time to reach verdict and settlement. Even in cases which end with out-of-court settlement, the claim has often dragged on for years.
- The defense team is ruthless.
Wrongful death cases are very complicated, and each side is fighting for the "win" – whether that means settlement or acquittal.
It's the defense team's job to skew the case in the defendant's favor. They are ruthless in trying to achieve this, and almost always attack the victim's character or that of your family.
It's your wrongful death lawyer's responsibility to get you the justice you deserve. Part of this means protecting you and your loved one's memory from defamation by the defense. You need a wrongful death attorney who is experienced enough to diffuse these situations before they arise.
- Communication and trust are keys to the case.
You're not a wrongful death lawyer, but you are putting your trust in one. You must be confident – from the onset and throughout the process – that your case is in good hands. Your lawyer should put you at ease immediately, keep an open line of communication and earn your trust by always keeping your best interests in mind.
A wrongful death case must be solid straight through. This includes the relationship between your lawyer and yourself. Your lawyer must work to communicate with you about the details of the case while also protecting you from the ruthlessness of the defense team.
- Your involvement could change the course of the case.
It’s important to remember that even in the face of cold litigation, your wrongful death case is emotionally charged. It's easy for your to remember that your loved one (the victim) was a person, but the defendant is a person too. The judge, the jury, and both teams of lawyers all have their own human emotions – and their views affect the outcome of the case.
Many wrongful death lawyers want to keep control over the case. They're reluctant to share details with you and often would rather keep you in the dark throughout the process. But you need to be involved in the case in order to provide your valuable input and to further humanize the case.
- The case hinges on everyone being on the same page.
Wrongful death cases are understandably emotionally-charged. It's possible that this added emotion is too overwhelming for you, and you'd rather have minimal involvement in the case. Sometimes, you want to inject your thoughts into every strategic decision. Ultimately, all clients have the absolute right to participate in the process as little or as much as they feel comfortable with.
Many wrongful death attorneys are not flexible enough to accommodate these different preferences. You need a lawyer who understands the compassionate side of wrongful death litigation. A true partner willing to alter the approach to the case depending on your needs and the best course of action that sees justice served.
Wrongful death cases are difficult enough. Don't make the process more frustrating by dealing with an attorney who is neither compassionate nor tenacious enough to get you the justice you deserve.
The experienced wrongful death litigators at Cooper & Elliott work with Tender Tenacity to guide you through the grieving process compassionately while fighting for the justice you and your dearly departed deserve. Call them at 614.481.6000 or click the link below.