What can/may a wrongful death attorney do for me and my fatal accident case?

What can/may a wrongful death attorney do for me and my fatal accident case?

  • Educate and teach family members (clients) about the claim process
  • Educate and teach clients about the court approval and Settlement Guardian ad Litem process
  • Educate and teach clients about laws and procedures applicable to wrongful death claims
  • Begin probate proceedings and apply to court for appointment of Personal Representative
  • Educate and teach clients about the litigation process
  • Draft and file petition to appoint the Settlement Guardian ad Litem (SGAL) in cases that involve surviving minor children
  • Gather written records and documents to support the claim, including medical records, school records, police reports, etc.
  • Perform investigation of the wrongful death claim, including gathering witness statements, photographs, diagrams, and physical evidence
  • Read and analyze insurance policies that may apply (e.g., auto, homeowners, health, life insurance, etc.) to see what coverage is available to pay for damages, like medical, hospital, wage loss, and death benefits
  • Meet and confer with the medical doctors and other healthcare providers to fully understand cause of death, and/or mental condition of survivors
  • Meet and confer with the SGAL to discuss the case and provide all relevant information regarding the claims of surviving minor children
  • Obtain specific reports from experts to support the claims for estate and each beneficiary
  • Analyze any pertinent legal issues that may affect the case, like contributory negligence, assumption of risk, comparative fault, etc.
  • File necessary claim forms with the at-fault governmental agency
  • Analyze health insurance or governmental benefit plan to determine whether any money they spent must be repaid
  • Analyze and address any liens against the settlement recovery (various healthcare providers, insurers, governmental agencies may file liens seeking to be repaid money for benefits already paid to or on behalf of a surviving spouse and children).
  • Help survivors in locating available resources to assist with their needs (local, state, federal, and non-profit assistance programs)
  • Contact the insurance company about the claim and conduct periodic discussions with the carrier about the case so that appropriate reserves are set aside to settle the case
  • Conduct negotiations with the insurance adjustor in an effort to settle the claim, either prior to litigation or trial
  • If a lawsuit is filed, then prepare and draft the summons and complaint to file in court
  • Perform investigation to locate the defendants and wrongdoers so that they can be served personally with the summons and complaint
  • Arrange for defendants to be personally served with the summons and complaint as required by law
  • Prepare and draft written questions for information from the other side (called interrogatories and requests for production)
  • Prepare the surviving family members and other witnesses for their depositions
  • Prepare for and conduct depositions of the defendant and other lay witnesses
  • Discuss and/or meet  teachers (or other education/daycare providers) to help understand the effect the loved one’s death has had upon surviving children and their continuing educational resource needs
  • When requested by the defense attorney, meet with experts to prepare for their depositions
  • Prepare to take depositions of the defendant’s experts, including medical experts, liability experts, damage experts, etc.
  • Prepare surviving spouse and/or children for a medical examination requested by the defendant’s medical experts
  • Answer questions and produce information and records requested by the other side
  • Review and analyze the deceased’s medical records and billings
  • Hire other necessary experts to support or prove the claim, including physicians, economists, appraisers, engineers, vocational experts, etc.
  • Review and analyze expert reports about the case, including those addressing liability, injuries, cause of death, and damages
  • File the necessary documents in court as required by the judge, including witness lists, trial readiness, settlement conferences, etc.
  • Prepare the surviving family members and other witnesses for trial
  • Create and prepare exhibits for trial
  • Organize records and other documentary evidence intended to be introduced at trial
  • Prepare for mediation and/or arbitration by organizing records and other documents for submission to the mediator or arbitrator
  • Research and write briefs and file motions to keep out or let in certain evidence at trial
  • Perform or participate in mock trials or focus groups to prepare for trial
  • Over the course of several days, try the case before a judge or jury
  • Analyze verdict and research any issues that occurred at trial
  • Following the verdict, write briefs or motions to obtain post-trial relief, including motions for attorney fees, or to overturn the verdict
  • Analyze trial record to determine if appeal is warranted
  • If appeal is filed, research and write necessary briefs and motions
  • Negotiate subrogation claims asserted by various insurance companies or governmental agencies that may have provided benefits to survivors
  • Review and analyze the SGAL’s report showing recommendation to approve or reject the settlement on behalf of surviving children
  • Draft and prepare the petition asking the court to approve the minor child’s settlement
  • Attend and argue the court hearing regarding the approval of the minor child’s settlement
  • Create and establish blocked accounts for the surviving children
  • Provide financial institution with information to open blocked account
  • Contact furnisher of annuity and provide all necessary information to conclude the purchase of annuity
  • Review and complete all necessary paperwork, release forms, disclosure statements, etc. regarding the annuity purchase
  • Review and complete all necessary paperwork, release forms, disclosure statements, etc. regarding the creation of a trust account for benefit of the child
  • Draft and file in court the appropriate written proof or receipts showing creation of blocked account, annuity purchase, or managed trust account

This is a general list of the various tasks that a wrongful death lawyer may need to perform in any given case. There may be additional tasks, depending on the facts of the case and the needs of the surviving family members. This list will, at least, give the reader some idea of the type of work that may be necessary to successfully pursue a wrongful death claim in the state of Washington.