Deciding on a wrongful death attorney is something that you should consider with great care. These specialized lawyers are there to help people who have lost a loved one due to accidental negligence or intentional harm by another party.
It’s important that you go into every consultation with a string of questions in mind. Your questions are going to determine whether or not you’re going to hire the attorney to represent you in a civil suit.
Before we dive into the questions you should ask every wrongful death attorney, it’s important to understand specifically what these lawyers do and how they can help.
The Role of the Attorney
First, let’s look at the role of the attorney in this situation. If you have an understanding of their goals and responsibilities, it makes it easier to put their answers to the big questions in context.
A wrongful death attorney will:
- Represent you and your deceased loved one in court
- Fight for your rights
- Handle all of the legal paperwork and advise you when signing documents
- Research your case
- Gather evidence to help you win your lawsuit
Now that you know the responsibilities of this specialized lawyer, let’s look at some of the questions you have to ask going into every consultation.
What Kind of Recovery Can I expect?
You should always ask what kind of recovery you can expect when speaking with an attorney. It’s important to note that they shouldn’t give you a specific amount, instead, they should give you an overview of what you stand to potentially gain to be “made whole,” financially speaking.
The specific recovery can vary from case to case. Generally, there are two groups of recovery funds — economic and non-economic. Economic recovery covers things like:
- Funeral cost of the deceased
- Potential income, particularly if the deceased was the “breadwinner” of the family
- Medical bills of the deceased if it relates to their death
Non-economic losses include general pain and suffering. These losses extend to the person suing not being able to enjoy life in a fulfilling way due to the death of their loved one.
A well-versed attorney will explain to you that there are nuances to wrongful death cases and it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint a specific amount until the case goes to trial.
Are You Experienced?
Another important question you should always ask an attorney is how much experience they have in these types of cases. Their answer is going to vary based on how long they’ve been in business, but it will give you a good idea as to whether they are seasoned lawyers or a blossoming law firm.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with using an up and coming law firm, but you may be better off using an experienced firm.
You may also want to ask about their success rate when it comes to wrongful death lawsuits. As you would imagine, the higher the success rate, the better.
What are Your Payment Options and Stipulations?
This question has multiple answers. First, most good attorneys offer a free consultation. During this time, you’ll be able to discuss the details and ask all of these important questions!
You should then find out how much they charge, whether by session or by the hour. They will let you know their rates, and based on your budget, you’ll have to decide if you can afford their standard rate.
Many attorneys will take on a wrongful death client on contingency. This means that you do not
Next, you should ask how much they charge when the case is closed in court or a settlement s reached. Many lawyers make a promise that you don’t have to pay unless you win. This is a great business model and has become a standard throughout the industry, but that shouldn’t be your last question about pricing.
You should also find out how much they are going to charge as a contingency fee, A contingency fee is a percentage the lawyer takes if a case goes in your favor. The amount the lawyer takes depends on a number of factors, such as:
- Amount won in court
- Time on the case
- Whether a structured settlement is in place
It’s important to discuss with your potential lawyer how much they expect upon winning the case. Some opt for percentages, such as ⅓ of the winnings, while others sit at a steady percentage.
Be sure to ask if expenses will be included in that percentage or paid in addition to the settlement. Things like phone calls, and locating and serving subpoenas to witnesses are typical expenses in such cases.
There are some lawyers that will give you payment options, especially when you get a structured settlement. In this case, you’ll pay the lawyer bi-weekly or monthly, depending on the agreed upon payment plan. You’ll send in the money just like you’re paying a bill.
How Long Do I have to File My Case?
In many cases, people need to take quick action when filing a lawsuit. Wrongful death cases are a bit of an exception to the rule. A good attorney will tell you that you have about two years after the death of the individual to file a case after the wrongful death.
There is a lot that goes into filing a wrongful death suit. On top of that, the grieving party has to make go through the process of putting their loved ones to rest. They then typically take some time off work to grieve and figure out what happens next in life. This scenario is especially true when to deceased’s husband/wife is dealing with the wrongful death.
Don’t forget though, the sooner the better. You should make sure you start looking for an attorney to handle your case as soon as you think you’re ready.
There are a select few states that give the grieving party 1 year or 3 years. However, generally speaking, 2 years is typically the longest you can wait.
If you ask these questions during your next free consultation, you’ll feel more comfortable knowing whether you want to hire the attorney in question.
As previously mentioned, their job is to take care of all of the legal work. The best thing you can do is make sure that they are qualified for the task at hand.
No one wants to go through a wrongful death lawsuit alone. An attorney is crucial for making sure you are not taken advantage of, and that you get proper compensation for the death of your loved one. They are here to make sure you don’t have to go through this horrendous situation alone.