Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Have to Go To Court to Get Wrongful Death Damages?
Many people want to obtain damages after a loved one passes away; however, many are frightened by the prospect of going to court and some simply do not want to deal with the stress of a trial. While you can pursue a case in civil court to obtain damages, it is not always necessary for your case to go to trial. In fact, in many circumstances, cases are resolved outside of the courtroom through settlement negotiations.
Settlement means that the defendant (or his insurer) agrees to accept responsibility for the death and will provide compensation. When you settle a claim, the defendant or insurer agrees to pay you a set amount of money for the losses that you have endured. In exchange for receiving the money that was agreed to in the settlement, you must sign a waiver of liability.
It is important to note that once you settle a claim, you cannot change your mind. The waiver of liability applies and is permanent – even if it later turns out that you sustained more damages or more losses than originally anticipated. That said, you should make certain that you fully understand the damages to which you are entitled before you agree to a settlement.
Ultimately, you will benefit by agreeing to settle since you will have the certainty of knowing that you will be compensated and you will have avoided having to be present at court hearings. Likewise, the defendant or insurer benefits because they will also have certainty. As long as the settlement is fair, negotiating an out-of-court settlement can sometimes be the best outcome for all parties.
How Do I Negotiate a Settlement for Wrongful Death Damages?
Before you negotiate a settlement for damages, you need to know what your case is likely to be worth so you can ensure the settlement offer you accept is fair. An attorney can help you understand the damages to which you are entitled so you will know how much compensation you likely deserve.
There are different approaches to the negotiation process, but having an attorney represent you is generally best because your lawyer will have the necessary knowledge and skills to maximize the settlement offers you receive. You will be negotiating with an insurance company in almost all cases, as it is the insurer who pays damages after most fatal accidents. Please note, however, that the insurer’s goal is to pay you as little as possible. Accordingly, you need a committed advocate on your side who can help make certain that you obtain the money you deserve.
Your attorney can help you send a demand letter specifying the amount of compensation you believe would be appropriate given the nature of your losses. A wrongful death lawyer from our firm can also represent you during the negotiation process and advise you of your rights before you agree to accept any settlement offers.
Can I Make a Claim Against Multiple Parties in a Wrongful Death Case?
There are certain circumstances where it may be possible to hold multiple parties accountable for a fatality. This can be helpful in circumstances where one individual who is liable for your losses does not have sufficient insurance or sufficient assets to provide you with full compensation for all of the losses you have endured.
One example of a situation where you could potentially make a claim against multiple parties is when you are involved in an auto accident with someone who was on-the-job at the time of the incident. Under these circumstances, you could potentially pursue a claim against the driver who hurt you. But, because the driver was working, the driver is considered an agent of his or her employer. The actions of an agent are the equivalent of the employer’s actions, so you could possibly pursue a claim against the employer too.
In the case of a truck accident, trucking companies are required to have substantial insurance – with a minimum of $750,000 in liability coverage for most trucking companies and a minimum of $5 million for trucking companies that transport hazardous material. Being able to pursue a claim against a company with more insurance can help you to ensure you are fully compensated for all of your damages.
What Do I Have to Prove When Making a Wrongful Death Claim?
To make a claim, you will need to prove that the defendant or party you are making a claim against was directly responsible for causing the death at issue to occur. Essentially, you have to prove that the other party acted negligently or failed to fulfill a legal duty.
In an Arizona wrongful death lawsuit you do not need to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt as you would in a criminal case. The standard of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. In other words, you must show that it is more likely than not that the other party against whom you are pursuing the claim was negligent or unreasonably careless such that it caused the death to occur as a result of his or her wrongful actions.
You will also need to prove the extent of the damages that you have endured. A Phoenix wrongful death attorney can help you find expert witnesses and obtain solid evidence of the extent of your losses so you can be fully compensated.
Why Is It Important to Have an Arizona Wrongful Death Attorney?
As noted above, during the negotiation process, the insurers handling the claim are looking to provide you with the minimum amount of compensation possible because they want to protect their bottom line. That being the case, you need an attorney to help you negotiate a fair settlement and review any offers before you sign and give up your right to make a claim for damages in the future.
If your case will go to court, there are rules of evidence to follow and you need to be able to present evidence to the jury in a compelling way. An experienced attorney can provide the help that you need to make the strongest possible case so you can maximize your chances of being compensated for all of the losses you’ve endured.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you have lost someone you love and are considering filing an action, our legal team is here to help. We offer free consultations during which we will answer your questions and help you determine the best path to take to recover the legal damages you may be entitled to. Call us today at 602-535-1900 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney at our firm. We have wrongful death attorneys available at our main office in Phoenix as well as our offices throughout the state.