Individuals come to our office at the worst time of their lives. Whether it be due to medical malpractice, a semi-truck accident or whatever the cause may be, a loved one has just passed away due to someone else’s negligent actions. Naturally, the family of the decedent wants answers when a tragedy occurs. They want answers as to why an accident occurred, how it occurred and how it can be prevented from occurring to another unsuspecting innocent family. Part of every good wrongful death lawyer's job is to ensure that the family gets the answers to these questions in addition to financially stability. When pursuing answers for the family the wrongful death claim begins and there are several stages to any successful claim.
Determining the Heirs
The first step in a claim is to determine who the appropriate heir to assert the claim is. In Kansas, this is determined by K.S.A. § 60-1902. In Missouri, this is determined by Missouri statute 537.080. To determine the appropriate heirs to a claim, things like whether the decedent was married and whether they had children will be considered among other considerations. It will be up to the heirs to engage a wrongful death lawyer. Many times questions of attorney fees will be a concern at this stage. Heirs may not have the ability to pay a lawyer but are still wanting to pursue a claim. Nearly all wrongful death lawyers accept cases on a contingency basis. In other words, heirs never pay an attorney unless the attorney wins their case. After the appropriate party to pursue the claim is determined, next is to start an investigation to determine who all could be responsible for the cause of the wrongful death.
Investigation of the Claim
Investigation of a claim is one of the most important parts of a wrongful death lawyer's job. Often a lawyer may hire other professionals like a private investigator, accident reconstructionist, medical expert or other expert relevant to the claim during the investigation stage of a claim. The investigation is largely going to center around the type of claim. In a medical malpractice scenario, there could be many health care providers and the investigation will help determine who all was involved and who was at fault. In a construction site accident scenario, there could be numerous contractors and subcontractors and the investigation will determine at the involvement of each. For a truck wreck scenario, the trucking company, the driver, and various levels of leases will need to be investigated for the claim. The investigation to find the responsible parties should be done as soon as possible. Individuals that are responsible for the death of another my try to destroy evidence or hide facts relevant to pursuing the claim. The quicker a party retains a lawyer to start uncovering the cause of the death the better for the claim and the better for obtaining answers as to why the death occurred.
Damages are another way of saying, "What can the wrongdoer in a claim do to make the family whole again?" In reality, no one can bring back a lost loved one. No one can take the place of a father reading a bedtime story to their kids; No one can kiss a child's skinned knee after they have fallen like a mother can. No one can make a family whole again. When someone is killed due to another’s reckless actions a lawyer is left with limited ability to really make a family whole again. All a lawyer can really do is seek monetary compensation from the wrongdoer and make it so costly that the wrongdoer thinks long and hard about ever engaging in the type of reckless conduct that fractured a family and cost someone their life. Each state has a specific law that lays out the damages allowed when pursuing a wrongful death claim. In Kansas, damages are determined by K.S.A. § 60-1904. In Missouri, damages are determined by Missouri statute 537.090. If you are experiencing the tragic loss of loved one because of someone other party’s carelessness or negligence and you wish to discuss your potential claim, please call Roth Davies, LLC.