A wrongful death case is the most emotionally trying of the cases we work on. Surviving family members are mourning the loss of loved ones and in cases where a working spouse or a parent is killed, have the added stress of worrying about how they will pay their bills in the future. Comforting young children, planning a funeral, and grieving all take a high priority at these times.
Unfortunately, this leads many people to delay talking to legal counsel, and in some cases that causes them to miss important deadlines in the civil court system. For example, only one person can become the “personal representative” who brings forth the claim in a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased, and the courts determine who that person is early in the process. That needs to be resolved before any suit can go forward and if you don’t act quickly you may miss other deadlines.
Legally speaking, the courts treat wrongful death cases like personal injury case. Death is considered an injury by the courts. To be able to file a lawsuit for wrongful death or any other injury, the defendant must have committed some sort of civil wrongs, such as negligence, that lead to death.
It’s not simply enough for a person to have died on a property owned by someone else; the property owner had to do something wrong, such as failing to maintain the property. For example, if someone were to fall down the stairs at a building, there may not be grounds for a lawsuit against the building owner.
But, if there was a section of carpet at the top of the stairs that was bunched up and caused the person to trip, the handrail was loose and unable to support the person’s weight, and the property owner had been told about those problems for months but never attempted to fix them, then there’s a strong case that the building owner’s negligence contributed to the person falling down the stairs.
Each case is different and many aren’t this clear cut, but if you or someone you know lost a relative in what could have come from the actions of another person then you need to act quickly. Your want someone protecting your rights immediately and you can’t do that without an experienced lawyer.